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Reblogged:Independence Day Inspiration

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Although John Ridpath's stirring 2004 essay on George Washington commemorates President's Day, I think it is also excellent reading for Independence Day:
George_Washington.jpg
Image by Unknown Artist, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
George Washington was a man of impenetrable and towering integrity. He did not just espouse a vision; he acted in order to achieve and defend it.

Integrity is the virtue of remaining loyal to one's convictions and values. A man who is able to hold to a principled course of action, to pursue his values relentlessly, without compromise, and to do so under duress and the scorn of others, deserves our deepest respect.

This is what George Washington can give to America ... the spectacle of vision and moral certainty, backed up by action. He realized the importance of freedom and individual rights, and he pursued these values rather than power, approval, or prestige. And when we realize that human life was at stake and that he entered this battle on a world stage, and at the risk of his life and everything he loved, we know we are in the presence of a man who deserves our reverential awe.
Ridpath opens his essay by considering America's fortune in so often having "principled, moral leaders, directing this nation against history's tyrants and in pursuit of freedom and the rights of man" -- and I think he would agree that we could use such a leader now.

What I find so striking about this essay, aside from that very reverential awe is that Ridpath's words are radically different from those of so many today.

When is the last time, for example, you heard someone express authentic admiration for the character of someone running for President? Who was the last political figure you heard touted as "practical" that you would personally trust with anything important? When was the last time you heard someone famous held out as a moral example -- and wanted to live that kind of life here and now?

It's been quite a while for me, too.

The fact that America has had such leaders should serve as a basis for rational optimism that she can have them again. More important though, by bringing Washington back to life with his moving essay, we can see from Ridpath that Washington is still here through the historical record to guide us.

Great leaders like Washington do so in large part through example. That is, they appeal to the best within those of us who take their direction. They show the way, and in so doing, help us see why we should follow them and how best to do so.

There is a unity in purpose, thought, and deed in the leader's mind and actions -- and he imparts these to his subordinates because he realizes they need to lead themselves.

A leader worthy of the name has no use for lackeys, yes-men, or the blindly loyal, as we can easily infer from Washington's words:
Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.
It is a mistake at best to whine about America's lack of leadership: That is to forget (and prove oneself unworthy of) the man who transformed a demoralized militia into a victorious force on his way to greatness.

Washington the man may be long gone, but Washington the leader is still with those of us willing to learn about him and emulate him.

-- CAV

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On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

transformed a demoralized militia into a victorious force

That's a folkloric version of history. 

On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

"George Washington was a man of impenetrable and towering integrity." [Ridpath]

In every crucial moral sense?

On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

"A man who is able to hold to a principled course of action, to pursue his values relentlessly, without compromise, and to do so under duress and the scorn of others, deserves our deepest respect." [Ridpath]

There are a number of people who do that but who we don't necessarily respect.

And Washington didn't compromise?

On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

"the spectacle of vision and moral certainty, backed up by action." [Ridpath]

Certain that his beliefs and actions were moral? Or certain of beliefs and actions that were moral?

On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

"He realized the importance of freedom and individual rights" [Ridpath]

For some people.

On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

"he pursued these values rather than power, approval, or prestige" [Ridpath]

It's a firm conclusion that he didn't seek those?

On 7/4/2023 at 7:43 AM, Gus Van Horn blog said:

"And when we realize that human life was at stake and that he entered this battle on a world stage, and at the risk of his life and everything he loved, we know we are in the presence of a man who deserves our reverential awe." [Ridpath]

There are a number of people who do that but who we don't necessarily revere.

From the article:

"His vision of America was one of responsible, independent, free, and hard-working citizens, prospering in a system of political and economic freedom. [Ridpath]

Slaves, including his, generally were likely hard-working (some slackers notwithstanding), but not citizens nor envisioned to prosper. 

"He believed that America would become a beacon of liberty and justice to men everywhere." [Ridpath]

But "everywhere" doesn't include his own slave farm. 

"Washington’s integrity was on display, relentlessly and without interruption, from the time he accepted command of the colonial army until the end of his life." [Ridpath]

Yes, from before he accepted the command to the end of his life he had the integrity to be slave owner.

Edited by InfraBeat
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