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From our archives: No need for fables about Washington

What we thought: 50 years ago

Published: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
George Washington 1732-1799 No cherry-tree legends were necessary for the "Father of His Country," opined the Telegraph on Feb. 22, 1964. The truth was stirring enough.

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials and articles from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following items appeared in the Telegraph on Feb. 22 and 25, 1964.

The truth is

stirring enough

George Washington’s birthday anniversary prompts a thought:

Why do we make up fables to illustrate the greatness of our country’s statesmen when their real lives are so much more impressive?

Why do we have to make so much out of the legend that Washington told his father he had, indeed, cut down the cherry tree?

It is fine, of course, that Washington was truthful, but it is a pity we must make up fables to illustrate his honesty. Washington should be remembered for other, greater deeds; for his real accomplishments.

Born in Westmoreland County, Va., Washington did not attend school until after he was 11 years old. Yet, when he was only 16, he started a career as a surveyor.

It was when he was a surveyor that Gov. Dinwiddie of Virginia wished to send a message to the French along the Ohio River Valley and chose Washington to lead a small group of men on the 1,000-mile journey.

Washington had adventures on that journey that were worthy of the Daniel Boone legend.

When the call went out for soldiers during the French and Indian War, Washington met the challenge and served bravely.

He was chosen a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. It was at the second in 1775 that he was chosen to lead an American army.

The army consisted of raw, untrained citizens. These men had come from their farms at the news of trouble. They were without uniforms and camp equipment. Their rifles were their own.

It was Washington’s task to shape them into a fighting team. For seven years, he fought not only the British, but apathy, defection and a wrangling Congress from 13 independent, sovereign, jealous states.

After the war, Washington was asked to preside over the convention which framed the Constitution. It was this same Constitution which provided for a president, and Washington was asked to be the first president of the United States.

Which of these deeds should he be remembered for?

He was not a military genius. No one claims he was. There is some argument as to whether he was a great president. He was not even a polished surveyor.

What, then, should he be remembered for?

George Washington should be remembered as a man who so loved his country that he was willing to serve it in any way he could, a man who spent his life in the public service.

Truly it can be said of him that he pledged his life, fortune and his honor to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and his country. – Feb. 22, 1964


Mr. WHO?

We’re doing fine in the science of communications.

We have television. We have telephoto. We have Telstar. And of course, we have the telephone – just call anyone, anywhere.

But readable handwriting we still haven’t got.

A research specialist in this field is so upset over our scribbling that he calls it a “national disgrace.”

Illegible penmanship, he asserts, means “crippled communications and lowered learnings.”

It also means higher blood pressure as we try to figure out what some scratchy scrawler is trying to say.

We heard the other day of a fellow who has a simple way of replying to writers whose signature resembles the heartline of a cardiograph.

He cuts out the signature, pastes it on the return envelope, and lets the Post Office worry.

Lest this practice become general, perhaps it would be a good idea for the schools to try a little harder to teach kids how to write so people can read it – and to keep on writing that way all their lives. – Feb. 25, 1964

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