(Mark A. Hutchison) – Here is the simple truth: without George Washington there would be no United States of America. We would be British subjects or French citizens or belong to some other country, but we wouldn’t be citizens of the United States. He is the greatest American and its only president. Every president who followed him has merely tried to replicate the patterns he established.
His birthday is February 22. Until 1968, our nation celebrated Washington’s birth on his birthday. Then Congress moved the celebration from February 22 to the third Monday in February, and President Richard Nixon suggested that we should remember all of the former presidents, not only the first. Nonsense. The motives for diverting and diluting the national observance of Washington’s birthday seem to be both commercial and political. That’s for another discussion. Whatever the reasons, as parents, family, teachers, and leaders of youth of this country, we must reclaim George Washington, remember him as the indispensible man, and celebrate the holiday by its still legal name: Washington’s Birthday.
Without Washington, the rebellious Americans would never have won the War of Independence. The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander of the Continental Army in 1775. For eight years thereafter General Washington would lead this small, unprofessional, rag-tag militia against the greatest military power on the planet. This was the army of the British Empire on which the sun never set. Through the shear force of his personality and political astuteness, Washington would turn this underfunded and undermanned force into a fighting machine that would outmaneuver and outsmart the Redcoats—the military superpower of the time. Then, he would resign his commission and return to Mount Vernon and take up his position as a simple farmer.
Without Washington, the United States Constitution would never have been drafted or ratified by the states. Far too soon for Washington, he was persuaded reluctantly to leave Mount Vernon and participate in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He would be elected unanimously the President of the Convention, protesting his lack of qualifications. He declared during his opening remarks, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.” Washington’s widely published involvement in the creation of the Constitution gave the document credibility and legitimacy that it would otherwise never have enjoyed. When the delegates took the Constitution back to their respective states for ratification, Washington worked energetically on the Constitution’s behalf. He then returned to Mount Vernon.
He would not remain there long. Washington became the first President of the United States. He was unanimously elected to the office, twice. Think about that. Someone everyone wanted as President—not a single dissenting vote. He was the only choice—the very symbol of honor, dignity, and respect—for the new nation. He set enduring precedents for the office of president. With no limitation on the number of terms he could serve, he chose to serve two. The most trusted man of his age, Washington returned to Mount Vernon after voluntarily determining two terms was enough.
If all of this isn’t enough to raise a call to reclaim George Washington on February 22, leave the last word to Washington’s greatest adversary, King George III. The King asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning the War of Independence. West responded, “They say he will return to his farm.” “If he does that,” the King declared, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”
(Mr. Hutchison is a trial attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is Special Lead Counsel for Nevada in the lawsuit by 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the federal healthcare legislation.)