The month of February we should celebrate with pomp and ceremony the birthday of George Washington. “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Alas! He is largely forgotten.
No longer does his portrait hang beside our flag in classrooms. His birthday is thrown into President’s Day honoring all presidents, which include the bad and indifferent. One man only, Martin Luther King Jr., is individually honored on his birthday. We must not forget that President Lincoln knew he would start a Civil War, which could split our country asunder, when he risked all and read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves. Lincoln’s birthday is barely noted.
George Washington and other brave men knew they placed their lives, and their families’ lives also, in danger by signing the Declaration of Independence. Our country was in no way prepared for war: we had no standing army, no navy, and no munitions, to face the mightiest army in the world. What the newly coined word “American” did have was courage. They would “bend the knee” to no one. A man was judged not solely by his lands or property but by his ability to do what was needed, if his family were to survive.
We must know and revere our past. One in four Americans know almost nothing about George Washington. A friend of mine once told me that Washington inherited vast land grants. Not true! His grandfather, John Washington, came to America as a ship’s mate on an English trading vessel. George Washington became a surveyor at age 16. He went into the wilderness and surveyed vast land holdings given to his half-brother’s neighbor, Lord Fairfax, by the king of England. Young Washington saved money by living in the wilderness for months and was able to purchase a modest acreage. His half-brother Lawrence inherited land his father had acquired after his several wives died. After the deaths of the wife of Lawrence and his young daughter Washington inherited Mt. Vernon and his half-brothers estate.
The following information I obtained from the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. “One in four Americans know almost nothing about George Washington, the man who held the entire American experiment together. It was his leadership and faith in an entirely new form of government that determined the fate of our independence. If we are to maintain our hard-won freedom, we — and our children — must know our past. We must understand how we won our independence and who led the way — preserving his legacy is essential to upholding our democratic freedom. We must preserve the legacy of our greatest American hero, George Washington, before it is too late.”
“By the early nineteenth century Washington’s greatly loved Mount Vernon was in ruins. Neglected by his heirs, his great-grandnephew put it up for sale in 1848. Both Virginia and the United States refused to purchase it. Only 50 years after Washington’s death, this centerpiece of our national history was nearly sold into oblivion. A group of courageous women came to the rescue. In 1858, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association raised $200,000 in private funds to purchase and preserve Mount Vernon as a national shrine. One hundred fifty years ago a group of dedicated women returned Mount Vernon to its former full glory — WITHOUT ONE DOLLAR FROM THE GOVERNMENT."
“Now George Washington is faced with another possible extinction — this time from our schools, textbooks and memories. We must rescue our nation’s most valuable historical legacy and return it to its place of honor. It’s your choice.” (Let us celebrate a special day set aside to honor him.)
“FACT — When 2,000 high school students in all states were asked to name the most famous American of all time, Marilyn Monroe and Oprah Winfrey ranked ahead of George Washington.”
“FACT — Most college seniors think that Ulysses S. Grant — not George Washington — was our victorious general at the Battle of Yorktown.”
Further information may be obtained from the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, PO Box 1594 Merrifield, VA 22116. Or visit mountvernon.org.
Restore honor to George Washington: “First in war, first in peace and first in the heart’s of his countrymen."