Monday, February 22, 2010

Title Match: George Vs. Abe

That great and most famous Virginian, George Washington, was born on this day in 1732.

About a year ago, CSPAN released the results of its Historians Presidential Leadership Survey. I was dismayed that Washington beat out Abraham Lincoln for the number one spot, but at least Washington was up from a shocking number 3 in the 2000 survey. I would have expected as much from the public, but not from a body of learned historians. (I was among those historians, and I did not rank Lincoln at the top. I put Washington first. Just for the record.)

Washington tied with Lincoln on moral authority, which is understandable in the context of history. Where Washington fell woefully behind is commitment to equality for all. That is understandable in the context of history, but I'm not sure it is a fair comparison in the context of their times. Each man carried out his duties with vision and with an understanding of human nature that is rare.

I asked the esteemed historian Allen Guelzo, who also participated in the SPAN poll, how he felt about the Washington/Lincoln rivalry:

Deb: It all depends on who you ask, and when. In 1865, people imagined Lincoln and Washington as co-equals, the one the Father of the country, the other the Savior of the country. I don't mind seeing Washington and Lincoln jockeying for the top-spot today, so long as people remember that, coming after them, there's a long, long gap before we hit No. 3.

Ha! Well put, Allen. I would like to see our students learning more about each president and the context of the time in which he served so that the public can intelligently evaluate their service and intelligently select the next one. Ah....pipe dreams....

Read the results of CSPAN's poll for yourself and see if your opinions match those of the historians:

Boys Back When

I'll bet you good money that George and Abe tied Junebugs on strings as boys. This photo comes from my friend and fellow hillbilly, Byron Chesney. Growing up in the mountains of Tennessee, Byron was fortunate enough to participate in many timeless forms of entertainment. Click on the link to his blog, "The Life of Tug," on this very page. Tell him Deb sent you. You may also find the origins of that famous saying, "What does a redneck say right before he dies?" Answer: "Watch this!" There were many such episodes in Byron's life, but I have to admit, I think it's a guy thing no matter where they're from!

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