Friday, July 27, 2012

George Washington - Beyond Childhood Myths to Leader of People

(Photo credit: WikiTree)
Stories abound regarding George Washington’s early childhood including chopping down a cherry tree and throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River. True or not, stories have a way of framing our history. As an adult and student of history failure (doing my best to change that now), I admit these insignificant stories shaped my perception of this American leader and icon. Let us go beyond the myths and address some early influences that shaped one of the most significant leaders in American history.
  • George Washington was born February 22, 1732—the first of six children from his father’s second marriage and half-brother to three siblings from his father’s first marriage.
  • George's father Augustine provided well for his family as a successful owner of numerous plantations and justice of the county court. However, he died when George was 11 years old.
  • George was unable to study abroad; his formal education ended when he was approximately 15 years of age.
  • As a teenager, George had aspirations of leadership in the British Army; but his mother’s dissent led him to a career as a surveyor where he acquired land and grew his connections and influence. He was a very young leader of people.
  • George was known as a man of character undoubtedly influenced by 110 French maxims of his day: Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. Here are a few wildland fire leaders might consider (note they are as Washington wrote them in his school book):
    • 6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
    • 14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
    • 39th In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
    • 40th Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
    • [4]9 Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
    • [5]0th Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.
    • 56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
    • 58th Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sig[n o]f a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion [ad]mit Reason to Govern.
    • 59th Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act agst the Rules Mora[l] before your inferiours.
    • 73d Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring ou[t] your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
    • 74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speec[h] be ended.
    • 82d Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.
    • 110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.

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