EDITORIAL: Remembering George Washington

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

President George Washington was born 281 years ago. As we celebrate his birthday on Feb. 22, it is fitting that we reflect upon the character of the man rightfully called the “father of our country”.

In 1789, when Washington was selected to be the first president of the new United States, a popular vote system had not been established. Instead, the Electoral College chose from a group of prominent and visionary men who would be later known as the founding fathers. It was decided that each college member would cast two votes. The candidate receiving the most votes would become president, and the candidate with the second-highest number would become vice president. Under this process, George Washington was elected unanimously, receiving all 69 votes. John Adams was elected the first vice president.

One could argue that divine wisdom played the dominant role in the selection of then Gen. Washington to be the first president of the United States. He had already shown his leadership ability by serving as the commander in chief of the Continental Army. However, there is clear evidence that the other founding fathers had additional important traits in mind when they unanimously chose him to be the lead the new, fledgling nation.

Washington was also elected unanimously to serve a second term and declined a third term.

Many outstanding men were in that chamber when Washington was first chosen. Some of them, including John Adams, also became president. All of them voted for Washington.

Quotes from some founders provide us an insight into the real reason that Washington was their pick. Patrick Henry said, “If you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Washington is unquestionably the greatest man of them all.”

Thomas Jefferson observed this about Washington: “His integrity was the most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have known … no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.”

Washington's prayer journal reveals that he had a deep Christian faith that, undoubtedly, served as his anchor during the turbulent periods that he endured.

It is interesting to note that Washington lived and worked with several brilliant men, among them Benjamin Franklin, George Mason, John and Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and the Lees. Yet, at three major junctions when the nation was being established — the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention and the selection of the first president — the leader chosen was George Washington. It is clear that he was considered the indispensable man, the man chosen to lead the new promised land — the American Moses.

When the founders established the democratic republic that we know today, it is clear that they understood the need to stand on absolute principles. Today, however, elected officials often consider being flexible, adaptable, elastic, changeable or variable as virtuous traits. Those who are steadfast in their beliefs are more often criticized than praised. It is evident that an increasing number of Americans do not deem moral character as an important trait. Yet, this is clearly the primary reason that George Washington emerged as the most significant leader in the founding of this country.

President Washington's traits are ones for which we search, but do not frequently find, in government officials today.