George, my man

Even though our country celebrated it – to the extent we did – on Monday, today is George Washington’s actual birthday.

He was highly respected, held in the highest esteem and practically venerated by his contemporaries, he is wildly underappreciated today. I’ve just finished a biography by Richard Brookhiser; in Founding Father, Brookhiser digs into the man with the universally recognized name and ubiquitous face we modern Americans actually know very little about.

Turns out, the stuffy looking guy on the $1 bill was actually a pretty tough cat, a great politician, an erudite and eloquent philosopher, an amazing guerilla general who was among the world’s first to understand the concept of long war, and a brilliantly modern spymaster. Oh, he also, apparently, had a nasty temper he had to work hard to control.

Because of this sad mismatch between Washington’s modern image and his living reality, it’s completely fitting his country celebrates him on a day that isn’t even his real birthday.

Happy birthday, George.

2 thoughts on “George, my man

  1. How were the founders able to rise above self-interest or regional interests for as long as they did? The constitutional convention, ratification arguments and early years of the republic (before the first parties, and even a few years after) were remarkable for how leaders kept their focus on the public interest, broadly defined. And your man George seemed rarely to descend into the worst of it, despite having his own views on the issues Hamilton and Jefferson were squabbling about.

  2. Don’t we all wish we knew. Somehow, the founders, enough of them anyway, seemed inspired to create something worthy; that’s the only way I can say it. I believe they had a sense of their moment in history, that they were doing something almost unprecedented (at least to their knowledge), that they were going to be an example for others, and that they might well muck it up for their countrymen and themselves if they did it poorly. And somehow, that was enough. Finally, I think you’re correct about Washington. From all I’ve read he seems an honorable man, through and through.

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