FEBRUARY 22, 1954
SARASOTA, Fla., Sunday—Washington's Birthday this year falls on Monday, which is fortunate for a great many people since it gives them a long weekend. I hope, however, that this particular day will never be looked upon just as a pleasant holiday. It should remind us first of all of a very great man who became head of the armies of the Republic and against great odds won for the 13 colonies their freedom and then presided over the government in the most difficult period of its infancy.
Of course, we were fortunate in that we were so far away from the country of our enemy and that transportation and communication were difficult in those days. This gave us time and a certain amount of security, but we had a good deal of insecurity in our own surroundings. We did not know at first how we were going to set up our government and which was the best way to function. Fortunately for us, George Washington was a patient man and he had the gift of surrounding himself with able men. There were, of course, differences of opinion among them but the desire for freedom overrode all other desires and they managed to work together under the leadership of a man they trusted as a great patriot.
Though Washington came from a family of wealth and position the conditions of life here in those early days were not conditions of ease for anyone and Washington had taken part in other wars before he came to be Commander in Chief of the Revolution. He was a surveyor and that led him far afield so that he knew some of our sparsely settled hinterland. He knew what it was to be alone, to rely on his own strength, his own powers of observation, and his own judgment. He faced danger as an almost daily companion on some of his trips and he gained self-reliance and equanimity. The turning point of the War for Independence was probably the winter at Valley Forge, and without the testing which Washington had gone through before, during his adventurous life, he would probably never have had the confidence necessary to hold his army together through that dreadful winter.
I sometimes think that the test after the war must have been more difficult than it was during the war. Men facing great danger will rise to an unselfishness and unity that is difficult to achieve when the danger seems to grow less. Washington started us on our way as a representative republic, a form of government which has served us well, and as a man he left us an example of uprightness, devotion to duty and patriotism which every child can still be taught to emulate.
The problems of today are different but the qualities needed in our leaders have not changed, so George Washington's birthday has significance every year in reminding us of the duty of a citizen in a republic. February 22nd is not just a holiday but a day for pride in our past and rededication for the future.