The 285th Anniversary of George Washington’s birthday is the occasion for my annual post either on this day or on the federal and state holiday commonly known as “Presidents’ Day” in which I recall Washington’s greatness and call for the restoration of “Washington’s Birthday” as the name of the holiday to honor him and reflect on his legacy of American independence, liberty and representative government under the Constitution of the United States.
With the focus of the “Presidents’ Day” holiday on the presidency and all of the Presidents, the second Branch of government is elevated above the other two Branches, for which there are no holidays. Perhaps Constitution Day should be celebrated more, unless Washington’s Birthday is restored. This emphasis on all the Presidents, in addition to minimizing the greatness of
by elevating others as equally accomplished, recalls their mistakes, which overly
politicizes the holiday and increases controversy. Although it is generally worthwhile to debate
the merits of past Presidents, a holiday should be a unifying occasion, not a
divisive one. Furthermore, Washington is an example
of virtue and patriotism, in contrast particularly to some of his more recent
presidential successors, who are not worthy of being equally honored with a
“Presidents’ Day” holiday. Restoring
Washington’s Birthday would return the focus of the holiday not only to his
presidency, but to his entire life, especially his contribution to the American
Revolution and as a Founding Father, as well as to the Constitutional
Convention, which he chaired.
I have observed the last two years how
leadership offers a timely example. I
was referring to the contrasting weak leadership of his successor as president
at the time. I was specifically referring
not to President Barack Obama’s penchant for exceeding executive authority in
domestic matters when he was unable to gain support for his proposals from the
Legislative Branch, but to his relatively weak defense and foreign policy,
despite his continuation of the War on Terrorism and other reasonable policies.
As an overreaction to this perception of weakness, a plurality of Americans have admired, by contrast, certain foreign tyrants or have even sought such an excessive kind of leadership, that of the authoritarian strongman, for the U.S. Washington, who deferred to Continental Congress as commanding general of the Continental Army, did not seize power after the war, exercised no authoritarian powers as the first U.S. President and retired after two terms, offers a counter-example of strong leadership without autocratic excess. Indeed, even though
could have obtained dictatorial powers, he rejected authoritarianism,
exemplified the rule of law over the rule of man and championed representative
government as a safeguard of liberty against tyranny, as he respected the will
of the people, as expressed through their chosen representatives. He nonetheless accomplished extraordinary
goals as the First President, but his greatness was in his example, not only of
faithfulness to duty to the point of personal sacrifice, but of humility.
May Americans recall
Washington especially today and find increased
inspiration to cherish liberty, the Constitution of the United States
and representative government. May God