George Washington held that honor back in the 1780’s, after a most
distinguished military career and just when the Constitutional
Convention turned to him to be the nation’s first president.
That’s why presidential scholar Gleaves Whitney believes this day should be returned to what it used to be, the celebration of Washington’s Birthday.
People ask why a few of us presidential junkies would
like to see Presidents’ Day changed back to Washington’s Birthday. The
technical explanation has to do with a misguided law called HR 15951
that was passed in 1968 to make federal holidays less complicated. The
real answer is simply this: George Washington is our greatest
president, and too few American children know why.
Actually, too few adults as well.
During the American Revolution, Washington put service
before self. His personal example was his greatest gift to the nation.
It has often been said that the “Father of our country” was less
eloquent than Jefferson; less educated than Madison; less experienced
than Franklin; less talented than Hamilton. Yet all these leaders
looked to Washington to lead them because they trusted him with power.
He didn’t need power.
Washington knew that the bold American experiment in self government
under the rule of law could survive only if leaders exercised
self-restraint and accepted institutional limits on executive power. He
believed that leading virtuously was more important than anything he
could write or say.
Among other notable moments in his life of service, he stopped a coup d’etat against Congress when he learned of the plans.
On the Ides of March, he called the men together and
sternly reprimanded them for losing faith in the idea of America. The
new nation had a chance to succeed only if its leaders and military
adhered to the rule of law.
That assumes the law is guided by the original intent of the
nation’s founders. Which is one of the principles at stake in this
Are schools teaching this?