February 22, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Not sure how the man born on this date, Feb. 22 in 1732, would have fared in the recent tumultuous presidential primary voting or if the “father of our country” would have been elected in November 2016. Such are the dynamic shifts following the waves of exasperation, distrust, ignorance and yearning for direction, for a leader this time around.
George Washington was the right person for his time, our country’s first presidency. He did not want the job, was determined to serve but then to move on, feared he would be the new royalty. His great sense of balance and calm leadership — shown on the battlefield — stabilized the footing for the office of the president of the United Stares. He was a blessing, meant to be.
For decades in most American schools, students looked up at a blackboard above which was cursive writing and to the left and right of which were portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, respectively the father of the nation and the successor parent who put the house together knowing that if divided, it would not stand.
The great respect given these two elected leaders was assumed in those old classrooms. Now, even as cursive writing seems lost in the current of ignorant history, the standards set by Washington and Lincoln in their fatherly, guiding service are chapters never read by too many in the electorate, who would cock an ear only to jingoism and P.T. Barnum hawking.
Presidential elections have been toward the gutter before just as they have soared in articulation, common sense and goose pimples. Most have been ordinary, and maybe that’s what Anerica is often about — being ordinary in its particular time. Ordinary enough for the average person to earn a living, raise a family with expectations that betterment will come for the children, assurance that the clocks are wound and the fields planted and harvested, and that a general purring exists, like the cat curled up on the sofa who stretches his paws in assured and trusting comfort.
But today is a scary time, and we the people know not what is to happen come November, nor in the months before, and, most assuredly, in the four years, or eight, afterward.
So many had watershed hopes in 2008, but so very quickly they were dashed in a concerted effort to deny a leader his chance to do better for the nation. Special interests, the financial and ideological roots of which are so hidden and sanctioned by the High Court, attacked the current president from the start, and though accomplishment was obtained, certainly over the destruction of the previous eight years of war, favoritism for the 1 percent and the groundwork for a near depression, what could have been a heralding of singing angels became articulation echoing against a shrill singalong of lies.
Today, George Washington would have been 284, born in His Majesty’s American colonies, but his bones long lie in soil almost not secured in a revolution, almost torn asunder by a civil war, almost disturbed by decades of political dissent but for so many generations revered as the eternal resting place of the best example of the American presidency.
Would that all of today’s presidential candidates met at Mount Vernon and vowed to learn that fact and respect it going forward, wherever that may be.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org