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George Washington, the State of the Union, and Presidents’ Day

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Rembrandt Peale, Portrait of George WashingtonThe welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.—George Washington, State of the Union speech, 1790

As the pundits take the next few days to discuss President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night, we thought we’d highlight a new ebook out by our friends at What So Proudly We Hail celebrating the president who gave the nation’s first State of the Union speech: George Washington.

Editors Amy and Leon Kass explain the purpose of the new book:

On the third Monday in February, Americans set aside a day to honor and celebrate the birthday of America’s first president. Or that’s the idea. Over time, the significance of the day has waned, as we now celebrate Presidents’ Day sales more than we do the presidents. And although the federal holiday remains “Washington’s Birthday,” the change in the popular conception of the day to “Presidents’ Day” has caused some confusion regarding whether we are honoring only Washington (and perhaps his fellow February giant, Lincoln), or all presidents, regardless of merit. So why should a nation that loves equality single out one man for special honors?

In this ebook, we examine the words and deeds of the “Father of Our Country” and consider the qualities of leadership needed for the flourishing of our nation. The first chapter explores the origins and traditions of celebrating George Washington’s birthday, dating from the very beginnings of our republic. The second chapter looks at the life and career of Washington: his early education and military career; his time taking command—and relinquishing it—during the Revolutionary War; and his leadership as America’s first president. The final chapter raises questions about how we, 200 years removed, are to remember Washington. Can we say with those who came before that Washington is, in the words of Henry Lee, still “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”?

Learn more about “The Meaning of George Washington’s Birthday” at What So Proudly We Hail.