Thursday, February 3, 2011

3 birthdays, 3 presidents, 3 centuries, 3 defining wars ...

February is one short month long on holidays from the sublime (President's Day, St. Valentine's Day) to the ridiculous (Groundhog Day). And since 1926, February has been designated Black History Month.

Three outstanding American Presidents have birthdays this month - one from each century during a defining war in American history:

18th century - the American Revolution:

George Washington was our first president under the Constitution, chief among our founders as well as a great general leading the Continental Army in the American Revolution. He was born in colonial Virginia on February 22, 1732.

Volumes have been written about George Washington, but this video clip gives a good summary: George Washington insights by historian David McCullough  ( Here is the text: The Glorious Cause of America.  Also, check out instead:  Prayers That Changed America's History   - smithsk 2/16/14)

And remember it was King George III of England - of all people - after the Revolution who said that George Washington was the greatest man in the world. (Check it out in the video clip above.)

19th century - the Civil War:

Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky on February 12, 1809.

He assumed the office of presidency during a very difficult and divisive time - breakout of the Civil War. Lincoln kept the union together and signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to abolish slavery.

Again, volumes are written about Lincoln- but students summed up the high points of his life quite cleverly in this rap: Abraham Lincoln Rap

Whereas Thomas Jefferson defined us with these words from the Declaration of Independence -

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Lincoln redefined our nation by the pivotal speech: The Gettysburg Address -

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

(entire text: here)

20th century - the Cold War:

February 6th marks the centennial of Ronald Reagan, born in Illinois in the year 1911.

Reagan assumed the office of presidency during a deep recession, reeling from the stagflation of the 1970s, double digit interest rates, national malaise. His administration sparked an economic recovery that was the longest peacetime expansion up to that point in history.

The following 1984 campaign  ad sums up Reagan's eternal optimism: It's morning in America again. Much has been and will be written about Ronald Reagan, but some high points are captured in this video clip:  Reagan Tribute

Most important, at the end of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan's leadership helped to accelerate the end of the Cold War. He articulated with moral clarity the reasons to win the Cold War in this clip: Ronald Reagan - We Must Fight Speech. Not long after Reagan left office the Soviet Union broke apart and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

21st century - The War on Terrorism and ???

We have our challenges in the new millennium which began with September 11, 2001.  In its wake came the War on Terrorism, economic woes and the continuing slide down the slippery slope of spiritual apostasy, moral awfulness, political anarchy ...

In the future, we can draw on the inspiration from the last three centuries and three great presidents - Washington, Lincoln, Reagan - who had birthdays this month. As we face our defining moments may we have the vision of moral clarity and the will to never give up.

And most of all ....

Remember who we are!

Question: This President's Day, which of the former presidents inspire you and why?

Pictures from Wikipeida commons: Happy Birthday; Washington; Lincoln; Reagan; WTC

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