Great piece on the lessons (still) to be learned from founding father George Washington!
By Bill Sanders | April 12, 2013
Where did it go?… Why do we rationalize the absence of these traits in our political leaders, society and our american culture today? The Portrait of George Washington once held a prominent place in our nations schools. In 1932, to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of his Birth, Congress mandated that the Presidential Portrait of George Washington be displayed in every classroom in every school in America. The Federal Government printed a series of 12 booklets on the life of George Washington to be used as a teaching tool in the schools as well as the Presidential Portrait of George Washington. They were distributed by our Congressman and Senators to all of the schools, towns, and villages across the country. Today, you have to look at half the people elected to the House and Senate, and wonder how they ever got elected to office.
Over the past 50 years, the portraits of George Washington have been removed, and so has most of the history from our children’s history books. There is no longer a Washington’s Birthday Holiday for the one man, who gave birth to our nation, and our individual freedom, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, and guided our new nation as our First President. You have to wonder how and why this could happen in our country!
In 1998, I started Portraits of Patriots, a project to put the Presidential Portrait of George Washington back into our nations schools as December 14, 1999 was the 200th Anniversary of George Washington’s death.
I started the effort in New Jersey, my home state, (Crossroads of the American Revolution). Well… the effort brought out the NEA (Teachers Union Leadership) and the American Civil Liberties Union, in force to fight against it. It was like the site of the Portrait of George Washington set them a blaze with smoke coming out of their ears.
In 2002, the New Jersey Department of Education, tried to remove George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, the Pilgrims, and the word War, from the core curriculum. This would mean that the text book publishers could take out all references to our founding as a nation.
The teachings of George Washington are as timely today as they were when Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Grant III, gave a speech to the National Convention of the National Education Association(NEA) on July 2, 1930. He closed his speech with the quote “teach your pupils to know and admire George Washington, to carry his example and companionship in their hearts, and the country’s destinies will be safe in the hands of the next generation.”
Symbols and images are important because they remind us of who we are, what we are, and what we hope to be. The image of George Washington reminds us of what it means to be an American and of the ideals, devotion, and love of country that were so strongly exemplified by our nation’s first president. Perhaps it is why the radical left has been fighting so hard to erase him from our history and our children’s minds.
Last July, I was contacted by National Geographic when they began filming the Docudrama, “Killing Lincoln”, based on Bill O’Reilly’s new book. The George Washington portrait done by William E. Marshall is the subject of my project and is the portrait that hung in the presidential box at Fords’ Theatre the night President Lincoln was shot. I supplied the portrait for the movie.
That night was the first time the Presidents Box was ever decorated at Fords’ Theatre. The Civil War had just ended, General Lee had surrendered and it was decorated in celebration of the event. That portrait of George Washington was hung prominently on the box draped with stars and stripes. Abraham Lincoln revered George Washington.
It was George Washington who gave meaning to the words… Honor, Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity, Character… leading by his example.
I think historian David McCullough said it best when he said “If you don’t know George Washington you don’t know your country.”
Think about that… and if you would like to do something about it, get involved.
William M. Sanders – Executive Director, Portraits of patriots