According to the Gregorian Calendar, George Washington was born on this day (February 22) in 1731. (Though smarter people than me have pointed out this isn't necessarily super clear). George Washington has been called the indispensable man in American history. It's a moniker that he well deserves. Without George Washington, there would likely be no United States today. (See "What if George Washington Had Never Been Born?")
It became fashionable in the 20th century (and remains so in many circles today) to downplay the importance of "great men" in favor of the contributions of everyday people. Historians like the late Howard Zinn championed this revisionist take on history. What historians like Zinn (and I'm being kind not to put that word in quotation marks when it comes to people like Zinn) fail to acknowledge, however, is that it was the common people who elevated folks like Washington to hero status. The American people respected, adored, and followed George Washington. They made Washington a hero, and rightly so. George Washington was the greatest leader in American history, and arguably one of the greatest leaders in all of world history. This isn't because of some Grand Conspiracy of "Elites." It's because the people of Washington's day were smart enough to recognize a man of high character and immense significance when they saw him. In a very real way, "historians" like Zinn (sorry, I can't resist the quotation marks any longer), when they slander and diminish "great men" like Washington, are insulting the common people - the very people they claim to speak for!
As I point out in my latest blog post over at the American Revolution and Founding Era blog (see "George Washington: Mightiest Name on Earth"), George Washington was not perfect. He had his flaws and his sins -- just as we all do. But if we can't consider George Washington a true, genuine hero, then heroism has no meaning. And those people who've become so cynical that they can no longer respect heroes (not even heroes like Washington), well, such people are in a very sorry state indeed. They are to be pitied, but they must certainly not be followed.