No day is more suitable than today for reflecting on the greatness of our first president, George Washington. He was born on this date in 1732.
Nearly three centuries later, we marvel at his wise and stalwart guidance during the American Revolution and in the formative years of our United States of America.
Washington's leadership was vital in throwing off the yoke of British tyranny and establishing the greatest, freest, richest country the world has ever known.
But Gen. Washington was not only "first in war" but also "first in peace" and "first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Unwilling to establish anything akin to a monarchy in the United States, Washington declined to serve more than two terms as president. While more terms of service by a president of Washington's stature and goodness might have seemed desirable in the short term, he surely knew that unlimited terms could become a curse on the nation if a power-hungry president took office.
The custom of presidents being elected to serve only two terms was wisely upheld voluntarily for more than a century. Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected four times, in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. He died in office in 1945.
Prudently, in 1951, the 22nd Amendment to our Constitution was ratified, so today, no one may be elected to the presidency more than twice.
As we remember Washington's legacy, it is important for us to examine our modern United States of America and consider whether we are living up to the lofty principles that our Founding Fathers established—principles that made this the finest country in history.
Would Washington embrace today's reckless government spending, which makes a mockery of our Constitution's clear limits on federal authority? Even allowing for inflation over the centuries, would he find it conceivable that the United States has amassed a $14 trillion debt—with trillions more on the way? Would he accept the fact that much of our debt is owed to foreign nations?
Would he approve of federal dictation in medical care, in education and in many other things that the Constitution left to the states or the people—and prohibited to the federal government?
Wouldn't he instead be shocked upon seeing our government's assumption of so much power in almost every area of our lives. Wouldn't he plead with President Barack Obama and our Congress to restore respect for the Constitution's limitations on government authority?
Our hearts swell with pride as we remember George Washington. But we can best honor his memory by upholding the principles that he and our Constitution helped establish.
As for Washington himself, consider some remarks by another great American, Abraham Lincoln, in 1842 on the 110th anniversary of Washington's birth: "On that name a 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."