Opinion / Travel

George Washington – The First “Dad” of our Country

by Diana Erbio –
Recently Chris Rock has said President Obama is like the “Dad” of our country. The President of the United States a father figure? Actually the president is an employee of “We the People”, as are our other elected officials. Although lately too many in government’s employ need to be reminded that they are supposed to be working for us, not the other way around.
Likening a president to a father is not new. There is a president who has long been viewed as the father of our nation. That is George Washington. Being our first president perhaps makes it a more fitting comparison. But George Washington preferred to play his leadership role humbly. He was concerned that the new nation’s president be nothing like a king. George Washington rejected any attempt by his countrymen to make him into an exalted leader. This new nation was to be a nation of the people; nothing like the old nation they had fought long and hard to be free of. That is why after two terms as president, George Washington declined to run for office again.
Knowledge and appreciation of George Washington has declined significantly. During the early 19th century George Washington’s birthday celebration was second only to the Fourth of July as a patriotic holiday. Today George Washington’s birthday is a federal holiday, but it is more widely revered for the bedding and mattress sales. The Monday Holiday Law in 1968 moved it from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Most schools have added it to the rest of the week making it a convenient “winter break”. I wonder if schools speak much about George Washington in the days leading up to “presidents’ week” as many prefer to label it?
Washington is relevant to Americans today because his life demonstrated his strong moral values, undaunted courage, solid and consistent judgment, unabashed patriotism, and his complete commitment to what was best for his country. Those traits never go out of style. George Washington is an example of how an individual can make an enormous difference. It seems it is up to “We the People” to educate ourselves and our children and grandchildren about the father of our nation. Why not do this by traveling to some locations that can teach us about the first “Dad” of our country?
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is open 365 days a year and has many programs that teach us about our first president. Some scheduled of events at Mount Vernon February 16 to 18 to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday include “Breakfast with George Washington” and a program “As I Know Him” where people from Washington’s World share personal stories about Washington. “General Washington” will also be on the grounds to greet visitors and receive birthday wishes. Call 703-780-2000; www.mountvernon.org. Nearby Alexandria, Virginia is offering many opportunities to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, including a George Washington Birthday Parade on February 18. Go to www.visitalexandriava.org.
There are many other locations to celebrate George Washington if you cannot get to Mount Vernon. Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts will be offering a wide range of activities during the week of February 16 to 24. Outside, visitors can enjoy sleigh rides, ice skating and sledding on 1830s-style reproduction sleds. Indoor activities include dipping candles, making a Washington cake and paper George Washington militia hat, and writing with a quill pen. There will be a Washington’s Birthday Ball, Presidential Food Contest, Presidential Trivia games, and free admission for everyone named “George” and “Martha.” Visitors can take part in traditional toasts to George Washington and enjoy presentations of “I Cannot Tell a Lie: Celebrating the Life and Accomplishments of George Washington in Story and Song.”
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates life in the 1830s, and is one of the country’s largest living history museums. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., the Village is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Winter hours are Wed. – Sun. 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (the Village is open on all Monday holidays For event details, visit www.osv.org or call 800-SEE-1830.

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