On this President’s day we would do well to remember the reasons behind it: honoring George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. History teaches us that these two were our greatest presidents. Even as many of us enjoy this Monday off from work what are some of the lessons we should consider.
George Washington, our first president was elected because of his wartime sucesss, guiding the Continental army to victory over the British. Let’s be honest at times during the Revolutionary War it seemed that the rag tag army of America might never mount a successful battle against the Redcoats. But Washington and the collection of American soldiers -most who were everyday people-not professional- brought their ideals to the battlefield with them. They brought the ideals that fueled them-ideals of liberty and of freedom. Washington managed not only to lead the war efforts but also presided over the Constitutional Convention and was elected president not once but twice by 100 percent of the vote.
Much was has been written about Abraham Lincoln, president during the Civil War. He is described often as a lonesome figure. But Lincoln was deteremined to win. He too kept his ideals at the forefront of his beliefs and knew that America united must survive. Lincoln didn’t leave the war just to his generals, Grant and Sherman he was involved in their selection and in details of the battles. He built a cabinet that was diverse in background and political leanings managing them as well. He took seriously the ideas of others. And when Lincoln ultimately signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves in September 1862 he did so again out of his ideals. He could not be fighting to keep America whole and over the issue of slavery when the slaves were not free.
Ideas and ideals drove these two presidents we honor today. Each was hands on. Each man guided our country in his own unique way but they were willing to stand up and provide direction when others wouldn’t. Each directed our country through war times and made sure they had others around them that helped. At Valley Forge, when the troops were sick and cold from winter, Washington had Van Stuben train the troops. Lincoln had his cabinet of rivals.
Perhaps President Obama should look closely today at these two. When Congress is squabbling as they are it is clear that direction is needed. The time is now to lead.