Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Searching for George Washington

Posted by Adam Graham on February 18, 2007

Last year I learned an embarrassing lesson from Basil of Basil’s Blog. President’s Day is not a holiday, Washington’s birthday is. If you don’t believe me, check the US Code (5 USC 6103).

It is most appropriate that Washington’s birthday be the one celebrated, because he serves as a reminder of what public service can be. For some, politics is something your whole life is centered on. The desire to be the President consumes all else, including principle, loyalty, all in a desire to have the top job.

Yet, Washington was a President who’d rather have retired than run. He was a man who could have been King of America. At the end of most successful revolutions, the man at the front emerged as the new absolute leader. Jefferson said of Washington, “The moderation and virtue of a single character probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”

Washington was a man who became great, not through grand successes (he had his fair share of failures and lost the majority of battles fought in the Revolutionary War) nor by desire for power. Washington earned the love and respect of his countrymen through his perseverance, virtue, and renunciation of power.

The one key issue upon which the passage of the Constitution hung was, “Will Washington support it?” If Washington had not backed the Constitution, it would not have passed. Yet, because Americans knew the type of man Washington was, they supported the effort.

Today, there are few Washingtons among us and those who are we don’t recognize. Perhaps, it’s because men of virtue and honor have better things to do with their lives than engage in public service. One thing is clear, Americans are hungry for leadership; for government that’s honest and trustworthy. We long for people who care more about the country than they do their own ambition. It’s why some people are open to Barack Obama despite his extreme views.

For most people, this weekend will be about nothing more than perhaps a mattress store sale. I think it ought to be more. It calls for reflection on our part. Examining Washington’s life, we see the type of man who earned the title, “Father of his country” and compare him to those we elect today. It’s worth considering what it will take for our country to elect more men of Washington’s caliber and less of the current group of scoundrels that generally inhabit Capitol Hill.

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