On Presidents Day, we remember all those who "faithfully" honored their oath to "execute the office of President of the United States" and to the "best of their ability" strove to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
We especially honor George Washington, the greatest of our presidents, the father of our country, whose birthday we celebrate later this week. He was, in the words of his eulogist, Henry Lee, "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Because he loved his country far more than its government, "a new nation, conceived in liberty," was born.
In the following excerpt Thomas Jefferson, perhaps our most brilliant president, remembered Washington fourteen years after his death, in a letter of January 2, 1814, to Dr. Walter Jones.
". . . I think I knew General Washington intimately and thoroughly; and were I called on to delineate his character, it should be in terms like these.
"His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though, not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion. Hence the common remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived from councils of war, where hearing all suggestions, he selected whatever was best; and certainly no General ever planned his battles more judiciously. But if deranged during the course of the action, if any member of his plan was dislocated by sudden circumstance, he was slow in re-adjustment. The consequence was, that he often failed in the field, and rarely against an enemy in station, as at Boston and York. He was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern. Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man. His temper was naturally high toned; but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendancy over it. If ever, however, it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath. In his expenses he was honorable, but exact; liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility; but frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects and all unworthy calls on his charity. His heart was not warm in its affections; but he exactly calculated every man’s value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it. His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble; the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback. . . .
"On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance. For his was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence; of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example. . . .
"These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of God, having been formed on an acquaintance of thirty years. . .
"I felt on his death, with my countrymen, that ‘verily a great man hath fallen this day in Israel.’"
Finally, with this moving video, we honor the citizen-servants our country once raised up, from every walk of life, to the highest office in the land. Every night at 11 p.m., during the annual Kentucky All State Choir conference in Louisville, the attendees come out to the balconies of the 18 story Hyatt hotel and close the day by singing the National Anthem.