Musings on Presidents’ Day

Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze

Somewhere between first and second grade at P.S. 104 in Bayswater, Queens, we kids Iearned that George Washington as a boy chopped down a cherry tree. With pre-made stencils, we all crayoned an ax to bring home to our mothers. Later, perhaps in third grade, we learned that George Washington could not tell a lie. That is my early, very scanty bio of the Father of our Country. Recently, I tuned in to the History Channel as a way of celebrating this president’s birthday. What I learned was that had George Washington gotten the officer’s appointment in the British Army that he coveted, the course of American history would have been different. The rejection by the Brits shaped his eventual leadership of the Rebels’ cause during the American Revolution. Somewhere between Far Rockaway High School and Syracuse University, we kids studied the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. Aside from its art historical stature, the depiction happens to be the turning point in the war. It was a marking of the start of Washington’s own journey to become the leader he became. It wasn’t a slam dunk from there to the presidency as I had naively thought and had been taught. Many failures in battle and life challenged his rise. It was however the beginning of a heroic chapter in the birth of our nation. At the end of the war, as the story goes, Washington refuses to be anointed “ruler” of the United States of America. He remained true to his vision of a government by the people and for the people and was later elected President. This is a tale worth remembering, thanks to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin who always digs deep and tells it like it is.

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