By Alan Graner
Today good old GW has become a cardboard cutout, a man with wooden teeth who chopped down cherry trees, never lied, and threw silver dollars across the Potomac—none of which is true, of course.
What is true is Washington was a helluva leader. Some examples:
Loyalty goes up and down the line
During the brutal winter of 1777 at Valley Forge, the Continental Army was regrouping. They were cold and hungry. Many had no shoes. Most of the officers wintered in the nearby homes of the well-to-do, dining on rich fare and sleeping in warm beds, while the troops suffered.
One officer did not.
General Washington remained in his tent at Valley Forge, spending each day lobbying Congress and scrounging for more supplies for his men. And they knew it. They saw it. Because Washington put the welfare of his men before his own, he earned their undying affection and loyalty.
There’s no leadership without respect
At war’s end in 1783, Continental Army officers heard rumors the American government had run out of money and wouldn’t be able to honor its promises for pay and pensions. A call went forth for the officers to meet and consider a military solution—a coup—that could destroy the fledgling republic.
Washington addressed the officers, answering the rumors point by point, reminding them what all of them had fought for. Suddenly he stopped, reached into his coat pocket and put on a pair of reading glasses. His officers didn’t know he wore them.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” The officers were so moved by his human touch, many had tears in their eyes. Thoughts of rebellion fled. The republic was safe.
Be true to your principles
After two terms as president, Washington could have run for reelection and easily won, becoming in effect president for life. If so, America’s history would be very different. Instead he retired and returned home. World leaders at the time were shocked that anyone with that much power would voluntarily relinquish it. But for Washington the principle was simple: he didn’t fight a king for independence only to become one himself.
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For a public relations campaign that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.