Posts Tagged ‘George Washington’
February 17th, 2014 at 6:58 pm
Remembering the Men Behind Presidents Day

Don’t know much about American history?

Blame the federal government.

Back in 1968, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson agreed to move Veterans Day, Memorial Day and George Washington’s birthday to designated Mondays to ensure three-day weekends throughout the year. Since the change would mean that Washington’s birthday (February 22nd) would never be celebrated on the prescribed third Monday of February, the new holiday became known as Presidents Day.

The motivation was primarily economic.

“The three-day weekend was favored by federal workers, private sector labor unions, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and an array of tourist-related industries and trade associations,” writes Carl Cannon. “It was even pro-family, its backers proclaimed. It was a win-win-win.”

The results were predictable. Today, many people don’t know that we celebrate the living on Veterans Day and the fallen on Memorial Day. Others don’t realize that some presidents – like George “Father of His Country” Washington and Abraham “Savior of His Country” Lincoln (born Feb. 12th) – deserve more attention and appreciation this time of year than their Oval Office brethren.

One way to overcome this misconception in the future is to acquaint one’s self with some of the best works on Washington and Lincoln. Ron Chernow and Richard Brookhiser have well regarded biographies on Washington. Harry Jaffa has two outstanding books on Lincoln.

Reading any of these ahead of next year’s edition of Presidents Day will go a long way toward reclaiming part of what makes America exceptional – Her exceptional leaders.

February 25th, 2011 at 9:18 am
Podcast: Scholar Dissects Life of (and Myths about) America’s First President
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Edward Lengel, editor-in-chief of the Washington Papers Project and professor at the University of Virginia, discusses his new book, “Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth & Memory.”

Listen to the interview here.

August 22nd, 2010 at 3:31 pm
Is Thomas Friedman Defending the Bush Doctrine?

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offers what may be the most thought-provoking commentary on the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq:

In short: the key struggle with Islam is not inter-communal, and certainly not between Americans and Muslims. It is intra-communal and going on across the Muslim world. The reason the Iraq war was, is and will remain important is that it created the first chance for Arab Sunnis and Shiites to do something they have never done in modern history: surprise us and freely write their own social contract for how to live together and share power and resources. If they could do that, in the heart of the Arab world, and actually begin to ease the intra-communal struggle within Islam, it would be a huge example for others. It would mean that any Arab country could be a democracy and not have to be held together by an iron fist from above.

Considered in the most favorable light, this was the hope propelling former President George W. Bush’s decision to depose Saddam Hussein.  If Iraq could be successful, then the path would be open to other Arab nations to trade the strong man model for stronger civil society.

So far, the jury is still out; especially with Iraqi politicians locked in disputes over a power-sharing agreement after an inconclusive national election.  (Perhaps if the U.S. State Department had exported our winner-take-all system instead of the Europeans’ proportional scheme, the Iraqis would at least be able to get on with governing after they vote.)

Friedman’s column is a welcome addition to the debate about how the United States can best remake other countries.  As of August 2010, probably not much.  At the end of the day, the solution to what ails the Muslim world lies in the ingenuity and statesmanship not of some “great man” ready to play the part of George Washington or Nelson Mandela, but in the collective will of the Iraqi people.

December 28th, 2009 at 11:27 pm
Lockheed Crosses the Delaware
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In this, the hair of the dog week of the holiday season, there’s cause for good cheer on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border. That’s where Lockheed Martin pledged $400,000 to keep alive the state park commemorating George Washington’s daring 1776 Christmas crossing of the Delaware River — a bold act that led to the colonies’ victories in the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and breathed life into what looked like a losing American cause.

I have to admit an emotional attachment to this issue. A year ago, in the waning days of the Bush Administration, I used the Christmas version of the President’s radio address to tout the amazing story of Washington’s Crossing to the American people. With the holiday weekend allowing a rare respite from the White House’s around-the-clock schedule, I spent a Saturday making the drive from my home in Alexandria, Virginia, to the banks of the Delaware River that the father of our country had crossed 232 years earlier.   It was a sight at once inspiring and tragic.

On those shores, where the dreams of an independent republic could well have foundered, is an aging and dilapidated visitor center that looks like it hasn’t been updated or improved for 30 years. Emanuel Leutze’s famous painting of the crossing (which at the time was hanging in the lobby of the West Wing) was replicated on a grand scale — but in an empty auditorium with buckets to catch the leaks from the roof and seating that looked like it had been pried from a condemned elementary school.

The center was reportedly facing closure because of cuts in the Pennsylvania state budget. That’s a shame. If conservatives and liberals can agree to spend money on anything, it ought to be on commemorating the great moments and great men in American history. And frankly (my only call for greater federal power in 2009 is coming in three … two …), as a place of national significance, there’s no reason that the federal government shouldn’t be picking up this ball if Pennsylvania is intent on dropping it.  In the meantime, thanks be to Lockheed. And if you’d like to lend your support, you can do so here.

November 4th, 2009 at 4:25 pm
There’s Still Room at the Table with Cincinnatus & Washington

What to do if you’re a California politician holding statewide office, but not enough money or name recognition to make it to the governor’s mansion? Win a Sacramento-area congressional election and head to Washington! With John Garamendi’s win last night in the other congressional special election (CA-10), the soon-to-be former Lieutenant Governor will join former state Attorney General and 1998 Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren (CA-3) in the House of Representatives. Although he never achieved statewide office, perennial Republican candidate Tom McClintock (CA-4) certainly tried. Eventually, McClintock – like Lungren and now Garamendi – discovered that the best way to escape the horns of the dilemma of one who is termed out of office, but can’t open the door to the next, is to pour a lifetime’s worth of money and connections into an entry-level race for federal office.

While it’s good to see that career politicians can find work even in a recession with 10% unemployment, one wonders how many perpetual office seekers pause to consider the example of Rome’s greatest – and perhaps only – citizen-statesman. Though Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus had some aristocratic prejudices (such as opposing equally applicable laws to plebeians and patricians), his chief virtue was that he voluntarily surrendered absolute power as soon as it was feasible; a trait revered and emulated by George Washington.

Perhaps these three Californians serving in the people’s chamber will have a chance to make a lasting contribution to their country, and then quietly go away. Until such a time, there’s still room at the table with the shades of Cincinnatus and Washington.