Monday, February 17, 2014
Happy Presidents Day
Today is the day we celebrate our two greatest Presidents: Washington and Lincoln.
I am convinced that the reason we reflexively honor these men is that we get the day off of school for for their holiday.
But that does not mean that they were not great men. I could go on and on about their virtues and accomplishments. But I always focus on these two:
Washington said no to a crown. After the Revolutionary War, his generals planned to acclaim him King of America. It seems an easy call in the abstract, but how many men in that concrete situation would lay aside absolute power? And by doing so, Washington reminded us that power is a tool of service, not gain. His presidency was the model of all presidencies.
Lincoln said no to ending the Civil War. That war was essentially a battle of wills between Lincoln and General Lee. The first one to blink would lose. And Lee gave Lincoln so many reasons to blink. There were so many missteps and failures from the North. But Lincoln never gave in, no matter how long the bloody business continued, through the death of his son, through never ending public pressure... I cannot imagine the strain it took on him. But he held on for the greater good.
I also think that they are safe men to honor. Because of the politically charged climate, if you choose a favorite president from the last 50 years, it tips your political persuasion too sharply for polite company.
But we can all agree that Washington and Lincoln are worth of honor.