I made a new friend this summer: George Washington, the first president of the United States.
We got acquainted through Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow’s 900-plus page biography that makes Washington seem so real, so human, and so appealing that I got excited about America’s democratic experiment all over again.
And obsessed with all things George Washington. I should note that I decided to read Chernow’s doorstopper of a book after reading and loving the much shorter (at 352 pages) Washington biography, His Excellency George Washington, by Joseph J. Ellis. Both are fantastic reads that I recommend, so you have both long and short options.
Here’s my list of 10 things I like about George Washington, in no particular order:
- He believed public service should be done for the public good, not to get rich. He often refused salary or other compensation he was due.
- He didn’t like being famous and tried to avoid pageants and public displays in his honor. Sometimes he would sneak out of town early to avoid a farewell parade.
- At a time when slavery was widely accepted in his home state of Virginia, he freed the people he held in bondage when he died, taking measures in his will to establish their care.
- He liked women a lot and had many female friends. Elizabeth Willing Powel, the wife of the mayor of Philadelphia, gave him political advice and was a close confidant.
- He was an emotional person, prone to outbursts, but he worked hard to restrain himself in words and deeds.
- He was athletic and liked to ride his horse and dance.
- He was a researcher, studying up on business and politics. He consulted widely before he made decisions and considered all sides.
- He didn’t have his own children, but he was generous and kind to his step-children, nieces, nephews and children of friends. He offered them good advice through his letters.
- He had high standards for his friends, advisers, and staff, and he was very loyal to those who met his expectations.
- He was charmingly self-conscious about his false teeth.