“Our nation has no right to expect it will always have wise, humane rulers sincerely attached to the principles of the Constitution. Wicked men, ambitious of power, with hatred of liberty and law, may fill the place one occupied by Washington and Lincoln.” So said Supreme Court Justice David Davis in 1866.
From 1777 until 1968, the U.S.A. celebrated George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1732, as a national holiday. Honest Abe Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12, 1809, was also a holiday. I well remember pageants, costumes and speeches that invited us to celebrate something bigger than ourselves and to recommit to values that gave our nation life. Then the corporate world wanted three-day weekends and President’s Day took over as we began to forget which values our nation should enshrine. So we’ve gone from a president who could not tell a lie to one who cannot tell the truth.
George Washington proved first that colonials could defeat the world’s greatest empire. Then he proved common people were capable of self-government. Washington personified leadership, integrity, courage, self-discipline, a sense of history, respect for rule of law and the ability to inspire unity and fidelity to the greater cause of American freedom and independence. He considered these qualities essential to a successful nation and wanted them taught in families and schools because a good country requires good citizens who can maintain standards for themselves.
JFK reminded us that each generation had to renew that dedication to freedom, law and equality, or it will disappear.