He is known as the “Father of our Country,” yet George Washington, our first president, no longer has a dedicated holiday.
On this date in 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, a man was born who would shape our nation as no other: leading American forces as General of the Continental Army in our War for Independence; starting the fledgling U.S. Navy with a handful of privateers that aggressively pursued the British Royal Navy; presiding over the composition of the U.S. Constitution as our government framework; and, finally, serving as the first President of the United States.
Some observers, at the time, noted that it seemed Washington’s very character and unshakable purpose were the only things that held the struggling new nation together. His sacrifice of fortune and risk of life in the pursuit of Liberty led his countrymen to view him as the very symbol of what “Americans” were struggling to achieve. In the most trying of battles, General Washington could rally his troops with oratory such as this:
“Our own Country’s Honor, all call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions. The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny mediated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world, that a free man contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
Frequently, the mere presence of Washington’s commanding figure, astride his horse, encouraging his troops to press on, turned the tide of conflict. The Marquis de Lafayette had observed Washington halting a retreat, noting that he had “never beheld so superb a man.” The image stuck with him and should also with us, today. It’s time to restore Washington’s Birthday as a holiday.