February 15, 2016
Leaders can make the difference.
Today is a National Holiday; you’re either “off,” or you’re trying to work and frustrated by the number of people you’re trying to contact who aren’t responsive. Don’t wait around for the mail to arrive; it isn’t coming until tomorrow.
While some are now calling it Presidents Day, it is – officially – the commemoration of the birth of George Washington. Though February 22 is his official birthday, the holiday floats: the third Monday of February, every year, is dedicated to remembering him.
His early adulthood was notably unremarkable. Born into privilege, his family’s wealth was in tobacco plantations and the hundreds of slaves who worked them (in his will, all of his slaves were freed). In his late 20’s, he became an officer in the British army and participated in the French and Indian War. In his early 40’s, he was a delegate from Virginia to the First – and, then, Second – Continental Congress.
At 42, he was commissioned as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, to lead the American forces against the British in the Revolutionary War. He presided over the Continental Convention in 1787, which produced the Constitution of the United States of America. In 1789, he was elected to be the first President at 57; reelected to a second term, he rejected calls to pursue a third (prior to the 22nd Amendment). He retired to Mount Vernon at age 65; he died two years later.
He’s known as “the Father of our Country;” no branding consultant conceived that moniker. Washington was regarded as the patriarch who did more to establish the USA than anyone else. General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee – father of Robert E. Lee – was commissioned by the Congress to write the eulogy for Washington, which they approved before his funeral: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere, uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.”
Today is Presidents Day; this year, it occurs during our quadrennial quest for our next president. If you have a sense of history, there’s a longing to find someone who measures favorably against the Washington standard. It’s a daunting task to find a candidate with those credentials…
If you’re an American Christian, the longing for someone who leads like Jesus is even more profound. General Lee didn’t write this eulogy; it was the prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before Messiah made his first appearance: “There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum… The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it – life, life, and more life… Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly – the best of everything, the highest honors – because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.” (from Isaiah 53, in The Message).
Leaders can make all the difference. Great ones are remembered and revered. But, true greatness is always measured against the Gold Standard, established by the soon-to-return King.