Sunday, February 24, 2008

The man who put the "Washington" in Washington, D.C.

As I understand things, the holiday that we often refer to as "Presidents Day" is officially designated by the federal government as "Washington's Birthday." This is because George Washington was a pretty big deal. It has been said -- and who I am to disagree -- that amongst all of the so-called "founding fathers," George Washington was the singular "Founding Father." In so many ways, he has come to symbolize so many of the characteristics we like to associate with the United States: courage, strength, perseverance, patriotism, sacrifice, valor, honesty (remember the cherry tree myth?), duty, public service, volunteerism, liberty, mercy, magnanimity, etc. He was the first and the greatest of the citizen-soldiers. He was the first and perhaps most beloved of our citizen-presidents.

Moreover, for me, and others of my faith, George Washington's mission had a significant spiritual component. He was, in my view, guided by forces greater than his own to assist in the creation of a nation where religious liberty could flourish and in which the Lord could more freely reveal his truths to man. In this sense -- as perhaps in many others -- George Washington's life was much more important than even he could have realized.

Of course, George Washington had his flaws; he was human like the rest of us. He was not the greatest thinker, but he was celebrated for his wisdom and practical insight. He was not the greatest military commander, but he served with unwavering commitment and with unflagging determination and courage. He had no real ambition to preside over this or any other nation, but he answered the call of his people with dignity and humility. For those of his time, George Washington was larger than life. To many of us today, he remains so.

So, on the day the nation celebrated George Washington's birth, the Willis family visited Mt. Vernon, George Washington's beautiful estate on the banks of the Potomac River. The people running Mt. Vernon (which is open ever day of the year) allow for free admission on Washington's birthday, which many -- and I mean many -- people in the area take advantage of. Contributing to the absolutely enormous crowds this year was sunny weather with temperatures in the mid-70s by noon. So we spent the morning with throngs of like-minded freeloaders, walking the grounds, watching the presentations, seeing the sights, and soaking in the history.

George Washington loved his Mt. Vernon. It's easy to see why.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Little Pete Turns 4

We never planned on calling our Peter "Little Pete," and we really only use the term to make it clear we are talking to/about him as opposed to Uncle Pete (my almost 25-year old brother with Down Syndrome who lives about a half-mile away, with my folks). In any event, Peter is getting less and less little. Today, our little boy turns four. Yesterday, he had his first birthday party, which included a trolley ride at the National Trolley Museum and other train-themed elements. Today, his actual birthday, we had our "family" celebration.

Oh how we love our Little Pete!