From the Editor: The following is the second in a series of letters to Presidents and other Key figures in history. We plan to share one letter per month to people who have greatly influenced or impacted our country and our world. We hope you enjoy this series!!!
Dear Mr. Washington,
You were known as the father of our country, and although, I’m sure you would agree, you most certainly were not the first great leader on our shores. However, I feel this so-called “title” or moniker, is most warranted and deserving! The more I learn about you, the more appropriate this “title” is, because you exemplified everything imaginable about a great leader and true American!!!
You are also known for saying; “I cannot tell a lie,” as a six-year-old child admitting to your father that you had cut down a cherry tree. Well, this story was a well-meaning fabrication by author Mason Locke Weems who undoubtedly wanted to extoll your virtues as a truly honest man, so please don’t look harshly on Mr. Weems, for he meant well and certainly captured this admirable and what would become essential trait of yours. Later in life you said: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” This sounds exactly like the man Mr. Weems was trying to convey to the rest of us – you are so right sir, honesty above all else!
You were born into a big family, that was about to get even bigger. As the first-born child of your father, the widower Augustine, and his new bride Mary, you immediately were welcomed by three bothers and a sister, born of your father Augustine and his wife who had passed away a few years prior to your birth. Your father and mother would parent another three boys and two girls after your birth, bringing the total number of brothers and sisters to nine, making yours a family of twelve, including you and your parents. I have always been a bit envious of a large family, me being an only child, so I’m guessing you really grew and matured within such a wonderfully large family circle.
I am also amazed as to how good a surveyor you were, surveying most of the Virginia land that lied on the bank of the Potomac, land that would eventually surround your future home at Mount Vernon. You also became a very successful farmer in and around your home state. You were also a leader in your church – man you were amazing!!! Sorry, I know you didn’t talk like that in your time – that’s kind of the way we speak today – not sure if it’s better or not 😊). You went into military service supporting and eventually leading various militia throughout our bustling land. Although you received a great amount of “learning” through some classrooms and within your family, you did all of this, without any formal education – I think they call that a self-made man, or at least I do, Mr. Washington. I heard you once said that: “Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” I’m guessing this philosophy served you well throughout all your endeavors. In a similar stance, you once stated: “Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.” We American’s are so fortunate that you felt this way!
I bet you were really excited when you and your half-brother Lawrence visited Barbados in 1951. It must have been a thrill to venture outside of the main-land, with your older brother, to such a beautiful island paradise, at the ripe old age of 19. What an adventure you must have anticipated! I bet it was devastating when you got sick on this trip, and then to find out it was small pox. God certainly knew what he had planned for you to exemplify your strength and will and help you to survive such a nearly always fatal disease, in those days.
What a great thing you getting small pox would end up being for you – did you have any idea at the time that this illness would be a good thing? I know, stupid question George, if I can call you George, I promise enough of the stupid questions – but did you have any idea??? 😊 Because, having contracted small pox and surviving this horrible disease, you became immune to it, for the rest of your life, as you certainly found out. That would serve you quite well when the small pox epidemic hit our world during the revolutionary war. Mr. Washington, George…I don’t think this was a coincidence – I think God knew how critical you would be in winning our independence and starting our country. I know you know this, being the strong Christian you are, that God often puts us through significant trials and tribulations, some which seem insurmountable, to make us stronger and to help us prepare for bigger and more important things – Isn’t God great Mr. Washington!!!
I know, from reading about you, that you were no lover of war, but you certainly were a great leader and tactician. Your military exploits are legendary and without your strong and courageous leadership at Valley Forge, we may not have these United States. I know you likely did not know this at that time but I hope you were able to look back on fondness for the courage and sacrifice of those great men you led. It must have been horrible in that cold and snow, but you and your men’s strength and perseverance are traits that have been copied by many brave soldiers ever since – you and your troops set the standard and expectations for defending our country – thank you so much Mr. Washington!
With the perseverance of Valley Forge, it’s no surprise you became our first president. After-all you lost your very first run for office. But you won your next campaign and were elected to the House of Burgess, for eighteen years from 1758 until 1776. After Surveying, farming, and the militia, politics had to be a challenge – how did you handle politics? You didn’t know then, what we today see has happened with politics, so I’m guessing it suited you well. Because George, knowing what I’ve learned from you, I’m sure your role was solely about what was best for your constituents, and you’re developing and growing, soon to be country. I know you know this because you once said: “Guard against the imposters of pretended patriotism.” Mr. Washington, we have quite a few of those imposters. I have to tell you, things have changed greatly, in this country, and we could certainly use a man like you today!!!
After the House of Burgess, you became our first President of THE Unites States (has a nice ring to it – doesn’t it George), in 1789, a fact we are so grateful for. We needed a leader like you with exactly your personality and philosophy to begin this country’s journey. You exemplified why you were the perfect first President when you said: “In politics as in philosophy, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact it from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.” How true sir – how true!!! George, we could sure minimize the number of conflicts that occur in this world if we heeded these words of yours.
Mr. President, you said and did so many things that you should be proud of, like: “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” I know you think not, because you were a very honest and modest man, but I’m not sure our country could have had the strong start it did without your leadership. Just like the above quotes, here are just a few things you said that we should live by today:
“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
“It is better to be alone than in bad company.”
“99% of failures come from people who make excuses.”
“A sensible woman can never be happy with a fool.”
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
I have to conclude my letter to you sir, but it has been great writing to you and getting to know a little more about you. You don’t know this, but I am writing from the middle of the United States of America, from a one of THE fifty states, called Indiana, and the USA is still going strong, thanks to you and people like you. I am writing to you from the year 2021, some 222 years after your death in 1799. Many people don’t know this Mr. President, but as was a custom in those days, you inherited several slaves when you became of age, to help you run the home and the farm. Over your life, you would have 577 slaves working with you and for you. But many people don’t remember that per your will, when you and your wife Martha died, all the slaves working for you and your wife were to be freed. When Martha died, in 1801, she honored your wishes and freed 123 slaves.
So, in closing I want to share with you George – well, now that you’ve been president, I don’t think we should be on a first name basis, although I doubt you would mind. So, anyway Mr. President, you also don’t know this, but they put a picture of you on the one-dollar bill we currently use and your picture has been there since 1869. Originally, I thought the measly little one-dollar bill was not worthy of your greatness. I know your modest, but to me your contributions are worth being on a Trillion-dollar bill, if there was such a thing. Yes sir, we actually deal in millions, billions, and even trillions today in this country – I bet you never guessed things would advance to this level, based on your paltry $25,000 per year salary when you were President. But then I got to thinking, you can’t get to ten, one hundred, one million, or even one trillion, without first having started at one. So now I think it is most fitting that everything we have and do in the country should start with you.
As simple as “one” is, everything we have evolves from one and every number follows one. So, you see Mr. President, we still remember you and will never forget you, because modest or not, you need to know that everything we have in this beloved country of ours, started with you.
Thank You so very much Mr. President!!!