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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exceptional!


For those who have been reading my column for any period of time know that I love to read. Recently I picked up a book first printed in 1842 by the American Sunday-School Union (ASSU), known today as the American Missionary Fellowship (AMF). The title of the book is, “The Life of Washington.”

George Washington is, by any standard, an exceptional individual. It has troubled me in recent years to hear defamatory remarks made about the “Father of Our Country.” Growing up in New England I well remember seeing the many signs along the roadways indicating, “George Washington Slept Here.” I found this opening paragraph written by Jamie Rhein on the Gadling travel web site: “Chances are you've heard the adage, ‘George Washington slept here.’ There is a reason for the saying. The man got around. I don't mean he got around in a nudge, nudge, wink, wink, ya' know what I mean kind of way, but he did sleep in a lot of places. During the Revolutionary War he traveled across the Mid-Atlantic states and through the Northeast eating, drinking and catching some shut-eye in various taverns and inns.” http://www.gadling.com/2007/02/19/presidents-day-george-washington-slept-here/.

There were plenty of jokes and innuendo about Washington a la the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, ya’ know what I mean,” inference. But from those who knew him he was anything but a philanderer. He was as uprightly moral as you will ever find in any man. In addition, he was the most humble of men – a quality sorely lacking in today’s government leaders.

George Washington was born February 22, 1732. An interesting anecdote to this bit of information is that Washington’s birthday was actually February 11th. If this is so, how come we recognize his birthday on February 22nd? Good question! At that time in Europe there were two separate means of keeping calendar dates: one maintained by the English, and one maintained by the rest of Europe. In 1752 the English changed their dating system to match that of Europe’s which shifted Washington’s birthday to the 22nd.

Many of you will remember the story of Washington “chopping down the cherry tree.” Revisionist historians have pooh-poohed this story as urban legend in an attempt to discredit the character of George Washington. They say it was all fabricated – never happened. Many of you have probably believed this because you’ve heard this story demeaned for so many decades. Allow me to report to you what was stated in the book. “The story is, that he was playing with a hatchet, and heedlessly struck a favorite fruit-tree in his father’s garden. Upon seeing the tree thus mutilated, an inquiry was naturally made for the author of the mischief, when George frankly confessed the deed, and received his father’s forgiveness.”

At the age of 15 Washington had a strong desire to go to sea as a midshipman in the English navy. His application was accepted. However, his mother was greatly distressed that her son would be leaving hearth and home, for she had been widowed for five years at this point, strongly relying on her sons to look after her. “When he became convinced that by doing so, he would wound the heart of an anxious parent, ‘Honor thy mother,’ he gave up his fondly cherished plan, and yielded his own inclinations, to promote her comfort.”

Several years later during his time serving with the British army in Virginia, he was an aide to General Edward Braddock. During one encounter against the French and Indians, “Washington was the only aid of General Braddock that was left to carry his orders and assist in encouraging the affrighted troops. For three hours, he was exposed to the aim of the most perfect marksmen; two horses fell under him; a third was wounded; four balls (bullets) pierced his coat, and several grazed his sword; every other officer was either killed or wounded, and he alone remained unhurt. The Indians directed the flight of their arrows towards his breast, and the French made him a mark for their rifles, but both were harmless, for the shield of his God protected him, and ‘covered his head in the heat of battle.’” The Indians called him, “The Spirit-protected man, who would be a chief of nations, for he could not die in battle.” The doctor who was in attendance on the battlefield spoke of Washington’s miraculous survival afterward: “I expected every moment to see him fall; - his duty, his situation, exposed him to every danger; nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him from the fate of all around him.”

There is a reason for the term, “American Exceptionalism.” It began with an exceptional man whom God chose to favor. We are, indeed, a blessed nation.

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