Holidays: George Washington’s Birthday


I know the usual things about George Washington. He was born on February 22, 1732 and died December 14, 1799. He is considered the father of our country. He may or may not have cut down a cherry tree and confessed to it without prompting. He had a good arm, he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac river. He was taller than 99% of the American public. He freed his slaves of his own free will. He had wooden teeth. His wife’s name was Martha. He slept in more different places on the eastern seaboard than any one person is capable of doing in several lifetimes. He was a gentleman farmer from Mount Vernon Virginia. He was the commander of the continental army in the war of revolution. He lived in the field with his troops. Despite constant shortages of food and clothing and even shoes for his men, he led this new county to victory and freedom. His fellow countrymen would have been happy to make him king and be done with all this messy crap about constitutional government. Think about that, King George I. Wouldn’t that have been a not-too-delicious irony? He was both humble and intelligent enough to refuse this honor. He accepted a unanimous election to the presidency instead.

In 1796 George Washington refused a third term as president. He published an open letter to the American people which was printed is just about every newspaper in this country. It has come to be known as his farewell address but technically speaking, it was not an address, or a speech, but an open letter. Washington’s fellow Americans gave it its title as the first President’s valedictory to public service for the new Republic…

The ideas are surprisingly fresh and relevant. You can read it in its entirety at Wikipedia. Here is one of the final paragraphs.

In reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Happy Birthday Mr. President.

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