President’s Day has come and gone, and few Americans saw it as anything more than a day off work. Most don’t even realize that “President’s Day” is not the official name for the holiday. Even after the cultural shift to change it, the official federal holiday is still recognized as Washington’s Birthday.
It’s boring to gripe about Americans not paying due tribute to the Founding Fathers. We have busy lives. We have modern concerns. Not everyone can be a history buff. But it is a shame that our nation’s first president is as well known by myths like the cherry tree incident as he is by the things he actually accomplished. Washington’s story is one of bravery, character, and radical new ideas. His circumstances may bear little resemblance to the world of today, but the traits that put him in the history books are as laudable in 2015 as they were in the 1700s.
A Leader in Every Sense of the Word
Barack Obama squirms at the thought of putting American troops on the ground in Iraq, perhaps believing he should not ask soldiers to do anything he would not be willing to do himself. I don’t know if George Washington would have had any such reservations, because he was fully willing to do what needed to be done. As the revered Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial Army, he led us to victory over the greatest empire on the face of the Earth. He did this not in a situation room, but from the field of battle itself. George Washington the Father of our Country is remembered; George Washington the Warrior is all too often forgotten.
The tales of Washington’s battlefield bravery are legion, but one example stands well enough for the rest. In 1755, when the American Revolution was still years in the future, Washington served in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War. British General Edward Braddock was under assault by the French at Fort Wilderness. Washington rode out into the ambush, delivering Braddock’s orders as bullets whizzed through the air. By the time it was all said and done, Washington’s greatcoat was found to have four holes from musket fire.
At the time, witnesses speculated that Washington might have been protected by divine intervention. But whether his survival on the battlefield was due to Providence or something else, there is one thing that is certain: his brand of bravery is not often seen in the modern White House. At a time when it matters more how you look and how well you read off a teleprompter, the presidency is given to men who have never been within shouting distance of real danger.
This isn’t a crusade to put more military veterans into the White House, but it is a plea to ask for more than charisma from our Commanders-in-Chief. Sometimes, the tough decisions have to be made. I’m not sure that community organizers, career politicians, businessmen, and former first ladies are the best people to make them. Our nation’s highest office deserves some of that timeless bravery embodied by its first occupant.