Presidents Day was last Monday February 15, but George Washington was born, according to the Gregorian calendar, February 22, 1732. It's a shame we have dropped his name from the federal holiday, which was first established to honor him, and lumped him in with the other 43 presidents. And all this was done to get a long weekend. But as the Father of our Country, he has earned a unique and special place in American history.
Most of us are familiar with Gilbert Stuart's George Washington, which was painted late in our first president's life, 1796. Most images of our founding fathers portray them as much older than they were at the time of the American Revolution.
As author David McCullough has pointed out, the American Revolution was actually a young man's and young woman's cause. George Washington was one of the oldest, 43, when he took command of the Continental Army in 1775. John Adams was 40. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. None of them had any previous experience in revolutions.
At the end of the war in 1783, one prominent world figure (not American) commented that if Washington returned to private life on his farm, as rumor had it, "he will be the greatest man in the world."
Who said this?
The answer can be found in this YouTube video clip - "The Glorious Cause of America," an address by David McCullough, given at the a forum assembly at BYU on September 27, 2005.
George Washington did return to his private life at Mount Vernon after the war in 1783. Later, he presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 and became the first President of the United States under the Constitution in 1789.
Okay, now quiz time.
Who said George Washington will be the greatest man in the world?
Anyone? Does the answer surprise you?
Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Gilbert Stuart's George Washington