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169 – Shaping The World Around You



Today, in America, it is President’s Day.  A holiday that started out as the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, our first president.  As time went on other presidents were included, Lincoln, and Jefferson, until eventually it just became “President’s Day” instead of just George Washington’s birthday.

Now its just a day when schools, banks, all government facilities and some other businesses take the day off from work.  Sadly, It has become a mundane holiday.

It started in 1862, on February 19th when President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on all Americans to recognize and celebrate the birth of the father of the Nation.  He suggested that people gather, and read Washington’s immortal Farewell Address.

I spent the morning reading about about George Washington’s life.  He was a fascinating man.  He is referred to as the father of our country…even though he never had any children of his own, having been rendered sterile by one of his many illnesses, either tuberculosis, or small pox, there is still some debate about which.

He was actually the sickest President in US history, in addition to the previously mentioned ailments, he also suffered from dysentery, malaria, tonsillitis, carbuncle, pneumonia, and something called epiglottis…to name a few.

He also had bad teeth problems.  At his inauguration he only had one of his own teeth left in his head.

He was a surveyor by profession, and started his career at the age of 17.  During his career he completed over 199 surveys, mapping out over 60,000 acres of land.

He is the only US President to ever personally lead troops into battle.

A lot of people don’t realize that before he ever fought the British, that he was himself a British officer.  When he was 21 he led a British colonial force against the French in Ohio.  He lost that fight, and the event sparked the “7 Years War” in North America.

I learned several things about him I didn’t know.  He didn’t wear a wig, in all the pictures, on the nickel, the quarter, and the dollar, that is his own hair, treated with powder to be white. 

He loved dogs, and children, he didn’t have a middle name, he never did chop down the Cherry tree or throw a silver dollar across the potomac river.  George was also a great dancer.  In 1789 his presidential salary was 2% of the entire US budget. 

He did own slaves, that he inherited when he was 11 when his father died.  But in his will he granted all of his slaves, 123 of them, freedom, and provisions were made for his estate in Mount Vernon to provide and care for them for several generations.  He is the only slave owning President to do that.

He was a master communicator.  In his lifetime he is said to have written about 20,000 letters. That works out to several every day.

Some of you might find this all interesting, as I did.  Others of you might be wondering what this has to do with our mission of Being A Better Man.

Well, the reason I’m sharing this with you today is because it is men like George Washington that inspire me.  He epitomizes on a grand scale what a man can do with his life.

All these little factoids I mentioned remind us that he was a human man, like us.  He had pain, and illness, and heartache and challenges just like we all do.  What sets him apart in my mind are the things he accomplished with his life in spite of all adversity.

He actually lost more battles than he ever won, yet his leadership in all the battles he participated is what ultimately led to America winning her independence from Britain.

George Washington was the ultimate leader.  He set precedents of military protocol and statesmanship that would endure for generations. 

Mr. Washington was a fair minded man, who was true to his personal convictions.  He gave up the presidency after two terms, even though no term limits existed at the time.  He did not want America to resemble a dictatorship. 

The first president was not affiliated with any political party, and in his Farewell Address he spoke out strongly against partisanship.  He thought people should avoid party entanglement altogether and instead focus on being a cohesive, united nation.

He advised against long term affiliations and alliances, or wars with other nations.  Suggesting we should be more focused on our own country. 

He was a huge advocate for the right of people to freely follow whatever spiritual path they wanted to, without any fear of prejudice.

It was he, through his leadership and indomitable character, that shaped our early nation in many ways.  He establish a path, a direction, that got America started off on the right foot.  And, he inspires me.

We obviously cannot all be George Washington.  I don’t expect to become the father of a nation.  However, his life illustrates how a single man can influence and shape his surroundings through focused, dedicated action.

Our lives, on a much smaller scale, are no different.  Through our actions and choices, guided by a dedication to our individual principles and a focus on that which matters…we can shape and influence our worlds, each one of us.  What one man can do, another can do.

We may not alter the world or the country, but we can influence our families and our communities.  It’s our duty to leave the part of the world we inhabit, in better shape than we found it in.  We can do this, we have the power to do this, because we are men.

To be clear, in this context when I say “because we are men” I’m speaking to the whole of humanity.  All of us, men and women alike, humans…have the power to shape our world.

I think it is our calling and our obligation as humans to shape and improve the world around us.  George Washington illustrates this in a huge way.  His legacy is unequalled in recorded history. 

It is a legacy that humbles me, and inspires me, to do what I can with this life I have.  That is why I shared this with you today, in the hopes that it may also inspire some of you to focus on your own life and the world around you. 

No matter where you are or what your circumstance, you can decide to have a positive influence on your own life, and the lives of those around you.  It just requires your focus, action, and effort.  In doing so, you will definitely be a better man today than you were yesterday.

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