President’s Day: Reflecting on the First
Ask any young child the simplest of trivia questions: “Who was the first United States President,” and the response is likely to be filled with great confidence. President’s Day, always celebrated on the third Monday in February, is yet another time to reflect with pride and to take a walk back in history.
The history behind President’s Day takes us back to 1800. After then President George Washington’s death in 1799, his birthdate of February 22nd held a historic meaning. However, it wasn’t until the late 1870’s that President’s Day became a national day of celebration, or as many Americans call it: a national holiday.
While our children can easily recite George Washington as the first president, it is the career of this great American that should stand equally impressive.
In June of 1775, General George Washington was ordered by Congress to take command of the Continental Army, strategically operating in and around the Boston area. John Adams nominated Washington at the time to serve as the army’s Commander-in-Chief. It was no surprise at the time, but George Washington had very little experience in managing large armies or large groups of soldiers at any level.
At the time of his first assignment in the distant northeast, Washington’s charge was to direct the siege of Boston. Over a period of several weeks, Washington formulated several plans, most were met with strong resistance from hardened military men. In the infamous battle of Mount Vernon, Washington’s officers formed together to out-think the British, resulting in thousands of loyalists waving the white flags of defeat.
Washington’s near overnight success received much praise from those around the nation, although word travelled rather slowly through personal messengers. By the time the messages reached the nations senior leaders, Washington was directed with two tasks, both of which proving more difficult than the first. In the Battle of Long Island, the British simply outnumbered Washington’s troops, a battle lost by the Americans. Although this was a significant loss, Washington recognized dangers and recalled thousands of troops to safer grounds. Less than two weeks later, the Battle of Kip’s Bay, in New York, also proved a bit of a disaster to the Continental Army, and resulted in the decision to completely abandon the city. It is recorded that Washington would lead up to twelve additional military campaigns, spread widely across the northeast.
While the history books speak a great bit of the battles across the great nation, George Washington’s leadership style is certainly one worthy of discussion. Today, many leaders are taught lessons. Leaders are told to be bold and to take risks, a failing forward concept. None did this better than General Washington. Washington’s senior officials worked closely with the New Jersey militia to use any available watercraft to navigate across the Delaware River. This included many unconventional boats, cargo vessels, and even some makeshift paddle boats. Leaders are also taught to be relentless. Under significant stress, Washington’s famous “Hour of Victory,” allowed him and his troops to push through towards Trenton, a much needed territory under the most difficult conditions. High winds, ice, and snow made the logistics of navigation all but impossible. The troops rose up to the challenge, led all the way by General Washington. Washington’s leadership style is one to be emulated today.
With one of the most famous George Washington quotes, the summary of this great man’s career as a military leader and President shine on to this day.
“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than can be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have won yourselves…”
Reminders of George Washington are everywhere. On the face of the dollar bill, in the heartland of Washington D.C., and on the great Mount Rushmore, reminders exist of a great leader, a fantastic President, and a great man.
President’s Day is a time of celebration and remembrance, just like many of our other historic holidays (Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Veteran’s Day, to name a few). It is yet another time to remember that there are still brave men and women who continue to serve our great nation with pride and dignity. The same pride and dignity that will reflect across our great nation on this upcoming President’s Day.
By: Geoffrey Phillips
Mr. Phillips is an IT specialist and professional policy writer / content editor; a non-starving writer always in search of opportunities; a USAF veteran; and a devote Church Elder and family man. His passion is in the pen and the people; he absolutely loves to assist transitioning veterans, and finds himself at peace when he is doing some sort of writing.