Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents Day 2011 ... back in the home school classroom

During the 16 years I educated my children at home, we celebrated Presidents Day by learning more about American leaders. One of our favorites was Virginia's very own George Washington who was the first president of the United States and, when my children were young, we would talk about Washington's traits, his surveying skills, his leadership during the American Revolution, his time as president, and his retirement to the place he loved, Mt. Vernon. We took field trips to see his plantation where we learned up-close-and-personal about his life at home.

Today we again celebrate Presidents Day. In Virginia, where we gave eight presidents to the country, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation to commemorate this day:

WHEREAS, one of the greatest stories ever told in our nation is the life and times of George Washington, iconic father of the United States of America, who was born in Virginia at Pope’s Creek plantation on February 22, 1732; and

WHEREAS, a sixteen year old in Colonial Virginia, George Washington penned the classic Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, a piece on gentlemanly etiquette that would guide him throughout his life and influence countless others throughout history; and

WHEREAS, in 1752, twenty year old George Washington was commissioned as a major in the Virginia militia, and the bravery he demonstrated in his early military career through missions in the wilderness and during the “French and Indian War” earned him an international reputation as a respected leader and distinguished him as the most experienced colonial military officer in Virginia by the age of twenty-seven; and

WHEREAS, in addition to his private business, George Washington was a devoted family man and statesmen, helping to raise his wife Martha’s two children while simultaneously serving several terms in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and as one of seven Virginia representatives to the Continental Congress; and

WHEREAS, in 1775, Congress authorized the creation of a Continental Army and appointed George Washington to organize and command the colonial forces against the world’s greatest military power, the British Empire; and

WHEREAS, from the horrendous conditions of Valley Forge and across the ice-filled Delaware River to the final triumph over tyranny at Yorktown, General Washington’s courage, conviction and resolve held the Continental Army together for eight long years of hardship against seemingly insurmountable odds; and

WHEREAS, after the American War of Independence, rather than using his position and status as the hero of the revolution to further his own self-interest, General Washington resigned his commission in the Continental Army and retired to private life, an unprecedented action underscoring his commitment to liberty and the ideals in which the revolution was founded; and

WHEREAS, George Washington played a critical role in the formulation of the Constitution of the United States of America, having encouraged the development and support of the document and having presided over its adoption during the Constitutional Convention of 1787; and

WHEREAS, George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States of America in 1788, a distinction that sets him apart from all of his successors, and under his strength and wisdom he laid the moral foundation of the United States and guided the fledgling government through its infancy; and

WHEREAS, in his first inaugural address on April 30, 1789, President Washington stated, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people”; and

WHEREAS, President Washington understood the unique character of the new nation as one grounded in faith in God and the rule of law, he stated in his first inaugural address, “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained”; and

WHEREAS, understanding that his behavior in office would set a precedent for generations to come, President Washington wrote in an April 25, 1788 letter, “The first transactions of a Nation, like those of an individual upon his first entrance into life make the deepest impression, and are to form the leading traits in its character”; and

WHEREAS, President George Washington lived by his written rules of civility, and the honesty, integrity and humility of his administration set precedents that are adhered to today, such as his refusal to treat the office as a royal court and his two-term limit on the presidency; and

WHEREAS, President Washington’s farewell address, one of the most influential speeches in history, advised future generations to avoid entangling foreign alliances, to be wary of partisan loyalties, to revere our republican form of government, and he also underscored the critical importance of the Constitution, stating, “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at all times exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”; and

WHEREAS, George Washington died on December 14, 1799, and upon his death, President John Adams stated, “His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read.”;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby recognize February 21, 2011 as GEORGE WASHINGTON DAY in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
George Washington ... a great Virginian.

Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon

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