By Ronald Court
I’ve been off-line for over a week – ever since my computer’s hard drive crashed. With computer and back-up software off to a Geek Squad for repair and reconstruction, I was “stuck” with time on my hands, and voilà, my disaster turned into a blessing in disguise.
I opted to catch up on my reading. First up was “1776” David McCullough’s account of General George Washington’s 1st year in the Revolutionary War. Defeat followed defeat until Washington launched a “brilliant stroke” and changed history, though the war raged for another six and a half years, taking 1% of our population. In percentage terms, it was “the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War.”
McCullough closes with, “Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning–how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference–the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.”
Amen. This inspiring read gave me pause to ponder how the history of our country as it is being written today will turn out–will circumstances or “strengths of character” make the difference? Only time will tell.
It is little short of a miracle to me that our country, born in a bloody revolution, dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal,” and still struggling to make it so, would produce not one, but two leaders who shared such ‘strengths of character’ and much more.
Consider two men separated by time, yet: both born on tobacco farms, both Virginians, both self-educated, both spending their earlier years working the same West Virginia land (one a surveyor, the other at salt & coal mines) both receiving honorary degrees from Harvard, both with a brother named John and both with the surname, Washington. (and here’s a stretch: both had a wife whose 1st name was “Mar…”)
To be sure, one was born into slavery, the other into slave-holding. However, my sense is we, all of us, stand to benefit more by choosing to embrace and emulate the qualities common to these two great Americans? Not because or in spite of the color of either, but because both were great leaders, period.
(Thank you, son Barnaby for the “1776” Christmas present I have finally come to more fully appreciate.)