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Washington, Washington!

Today we celebrate the birthday of the great President George Washington. I think some states also celebrate the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln or our presidents in general.

I prefer to keep the day’s celebrations focused on Washington, a man who somehow becomes more impressive the more I learn about him. We take the kids to visit Mt. Vernon somewhat regularly. My husband enjoys le…

  1. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    Two anecdotes. 1) the Washington Nationals have four people who dress up as larger-than-life presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Every time my children go to a baseball game, they are terrorized by these people. If they get too close they will begin running away, screaming “The Presidents are trying to get me! The Presidents are trying to get me.” This does my libertarian heart proud.

    2) When my oldest was two, we got to go to the White House Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. She was very excited and also got very confused about the difference between Santa and President Obama. To this day she claims that “Santa Obama” lives in the White House. I prefer to think she’s making savvy commentary about the modern presidency rather than that she doesn’t know much about our federal government.

  2. Percival

    I think a lot of people are confused on the difference between Santa Claus and President Obama.  At least your daughter can plead age as a mitigating factor.  We let a lot of the other ones vote, however.

  3. Mama Toad

    Mollie, I was putting up a post on a similar topic on the member feed as you posted here. The most important message I try to teach my students, in addition to the actual historical facts and constitutional knowledge, is that the president is a man (or possibly a woman), not a god-king, and certainly a flawed human being. We’ve had some great ones, and we’ve had some not-so-great ones, and we’ve had many who were a little bit of both.

  4. Foxman

    I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.

    God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God’s heavenly country club.

    Santa Claus is another matter. He’s cute. He’s nonthreatening. He’s always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without the thought of quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he’s famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.”  PJ O’Rourke

  5. Mama Toad

    Foxman, what a perfectly apropos quote! Love it.

  6. genferei
    Mama Toad: The most important message I try to teach my students … is that the president is a man (or possibly a woman), not a god-king, and certainly a flawed human being.

    Indeed. A presidential blooper-reel might be a nice teaching item, and a counterweight to the fanfares and bunting that accompany the ‘Leader of the Free* World’ these days.

    (* Disclaimer: Your membership in the Free World is revocable at any time should you fail to pay attention…)

  7. EJHill

    Everyone just needs to remind themselves of the following: A president can not intercede into your daily existence and make it better. But an overly ambitious one, even one with the best of intentions, can muck it up beyond belief.

  8. Spin

    Mollie,In our family, politics are discussed regularly, so the kids know the difference between Obama and Santa Claus, and they know at least that their parents don’t like Obama. What I wish that young people knew about the Presidency is that it is just one branch of our government. Actually I wish most people were aware of that fact. It makes me crazy when someone says something like “when President so and so was in power…”. The President isnt in power. He is in office. And he shares power with congress and the supreme court. There is way too much focus on the President and not nearly enough on congress. A good example of this is the term Obamacare. Why do we call it that? It was the democrats who pushed that through, primarily. Why not call it democare? Or ObaPeleid care? He only deserves half the blame, until the time the supreme court rules it constitutional, at which point he en only deserves a third the blame. Also, Mt. Vernon is really cool. I’ve only been once, but it was a great experience for me.

  9. MBF

    [instert obligatory reference to slavery here]

    Mt. Vernon is awesome. Standing next to his tomb is quite an experience.

  10. Last Outpost on the Right
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    On this day when we celebrate Washington (et. al.), what do you wish young people were learning about presidents and the presidency? · · 1 hour ago

    I would like young people to learn that the Presidency is only one branch of the Federal government, and not necessarily the most important. And that, throughout history, presidents essentially kept their mouths shut.

  11. MJMack

    What do you teach your kids when they look at the slave quarters at Mount Vernon, Mollie?

  12. Mollie Hemingway
    C
    MJMack: What do you teach your kids when they look at the slave quarters at Mount Vernon, Mollie? · 7 minutes ago

    While we have walked by the slave quarters, they’re too young to be taught about this part of our past (they’re only 4 and 2). It saddens me that we’ll have to teach them about this but I suppose it will need to happen within a few years. (I made the mistake of answering their questions about why pro-lifers march in DC each January and they were utterly horrified … ) Anyway, do you have tips to share?

  13. Paul Dougherty

    With a country that is primarily successful due to its value of respecting liberty, a President can be a fine example for people as an individual. George Washington was the embodiment of the 18th century  ”1%”. The revolution was not a revolt of an oppressed underclass, rather it was led by idealists trying to create a form of government that gets the best from its citizens by allowing them to determine their own course. Among these great champions for liberty, George Washington stood out as their leader less through rhetorical flourish and more by bearing and deed.

  14. flownover

    By taking note of his military successes in the face of overwhelming odds, trained mercenaries, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles .

    This article in City Journal is a good one. 

    And perhaps to surmise that God’s hand guided and watched over this man as he made our country free.

  15. MJMack

    No tips, just that all presidents have flaws and we shouldn’t shy away from teaching our kids about the presidents we don’t like, because the good ones have problems, too. Most of them were career politicians afterall.

  16. Flagg Taylor

    Lincoln gave a speech to a Temperance Society on Washington’s birthday in 1842.  Here’s the last paragraph:

    “This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birthday of Washington.  We are met to celebrate this day.  Washington is the mightiest name of earth–long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation.  On that name an eulogy is expected.  It cannot be.  To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible.  Let none attempt it.  In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.”

    That last line is simply wonderful (spoken in my best Peter Robinson voice).

  17. Douglas

    Mollie, while I take a back seat to no one in my admiration of Washington, it’s kind of silly to rip FDR for his Japanese internment policies… a policy that was designed from the outset to be a temporary wartime measure… when Washington was a slave owner (and despite his supposed misgivings about slavery, worked his slaves well throughout his life and didn’t free them until he was on his deathbed). And one of the things that’s been lost after all these years is the fact that there was indeed a number of Japanese that remained loyal to Japan, even after Pearl Harbor.  Over a thousand at one of the camps renounced their US citizenship. 

  18. Haakon Dahl

    There is no such thing as President’s Day.  Federal law defines the third Monday of February as a holiday in honor of and named for George Washington’s Birthday.

    Lincoln’s birthday was never actually designated in law, but was celebrated widely as such until quite recently, as (in my assessment) the competing pressure to lump it in under the reubric of “President’s Day” won out.

    The rest is advertising and state laws, which vary of course.

  19. Joseph Stanko
    Douglas: Mollie, while I take a back seat to no one in my admiration of Washington, it’s kind of silly to rip FDR for his Japanese internment policies… a policy that was designed from the outset to be a temporary wartime measure… when Washington was a slave owner

    Presidents are not saints, but I do think it’s worth drawing a distinction between their official acts in office vs. their private lives.  True Washington was a slaveholder, but isn’t that really more of a private vice like JFK’s affairs?  It’s not as though his administration  introduced or expanded the scope of slavery.  Whereas for instance internment was an official policy of the FDR administration. 

  20. EThompson
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    On this day when we celebrate Washington (et. al.), what do you wish young people were learning about presidents and the presidency?

    The lessons of Leadership.

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