George Washington: The Indispensable American
Happy birthday to the most indispensable figure in American history, George Washington, born on this day in 1732 at his family’s farm at Pope’s Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
Without Washington, there simply would not be a United States of America. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, he battled with his ragtag soldiers for eight long years against the mightiest empire in the world and won the fight that secured American Independence. Even when others lost faith during the darkest hours of the exhausting struggle, Washington refused to give up. He maintained an unflagging spirit and an iron fortitude that formed the lifeline of America’s resistance, leading his soldiers forward until they had done the impossible and turned the world upside down. In Washington’s own timeless words, “Perseverance and Spirit have done Wonders in all ages.”
Washington and his soldiers crossing the ice-chocked Delaware River in the middle of a severe winter storm on Christmas night 1776. (Photo Credit: Mort Künstler)
The young nation’s military champion did not believe that victory in the Revolution was due to him or his soldiers alone. As he professed in his farewell address to the Continental Army, “The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving, while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement, for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing Miracle.” Time after time, Washington always gave credit to God for his army’s triumph in the fight for independence, believing it was the Almighty “to whom the praise of victory alone is due.”
Following the war, Washington wanted nothing more than to settle back into a life of farming at his beloved home of Mount Vernon, but his country needed his steady, guiding hand once again. In 1787, the great hero returned to Philadelphia and was unanimously elected president of the Constitutional Convention. Washington was instrumental in the framing of the United States Constitution, which established America’s national government, the nation’s supreme laws, and the rights guaranteed to the people of the country.
The signing of the United States Constitution. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The new Constitution called for a single executive to lead the nation, and no one doubted who that executive would be. Washington was unanimously elected the First President of the United States and inaugurated on April 30, 1789. In a world where royalty reigned supreme, he painstakingly worked to prove that the republican model of government could succeed. In everything that he did, Washington demonstrated how a true leader uses power responsibly. To the benefit of every American then and now, he was always conscious of setting an example for the future, establishing precedents that continue to benefit us today and making it possible for the United States to become a beacon of freedom.
After two terms as the nation’s chief executive, Washington stepped down as president, setting a sacred precedent that is easy to take for granted today: the peaceful transition of power. With all of the power that he wielded in his life, George Washington could have been a king, but he refused to wear a crown. He was truly incorruptible and even Great Britain’s King George III was so awed by his conduct that he reportedly hailed him as “the greatest man in the world.”
George Washington taking the oath of office as the First President of the United States at Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789. (Photo Credit: National Park Service)
Few people in history ever dedicated themselves as completely to their country as George Washington did for the United States of America. He rightfully holds the informal title, “Father of His Country.” Guided by his devotion to duty, unbreakable conviction, faith, sense of responsibility, and his commitment to leading by example, he lived a life of honor worthy of the respect and admiration of Americans throughout the ages. America owes its life to George Washington. He was “first in war, first in peace,” and he will always be “first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Further Reading on George Washington