This is a question that inevitably arises in the mind of anyone who studies, even on a casual basis, the founding of our nation. Washington lived and worked with brilliant philosophers, thinkers, writers, orators and organizers, such as Franklin, Mason, John and Sam Adams, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Hamilton, Madison, Dickinson, the Randolphs and the Lees, almost all of whom were far better educated than he.
Yet at the three major junctions in the founding of the nation, the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention and the selection of the first President, for each position the leader is chosen was George Washington. In his own day, he was seen as the indispensable man, the American Moses, The Father of the Country. Why?
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His contemporaries and subsequent commentators have enumerated many factors that entered into the selection by his peers for these three strategically important positions: physical size and presence, charisma, energy, multi-faceted experiences, charm, courage, character, temperament, being a Virginian, wealth, ambition, his reputation as a stalwart patriot and, especially after the Revolution, the regard, admiration and affection of the populace at all levels of society. The most commonly cited characteristic given for his emergence as the supreme leader is his character. The most infrequently cited, as far as I have observed, are his intelligence and his ideas.
The overall impression that many people have today, therefore, is that while Washington was a person of the highest moral character, he did not possess a first-rate intelligence and he got most of his ideas from others, such as Franklin, Mason, Henry, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison. A factual understanding of their respective ages relative to Washington and the dates on which his views were known would prove the fallacy of the assumption that Washington was intellectually dependent upon any of them or anyone else.
I want to suggest and argue that Washington was chosen for these leadership roles because of his character and also because of his being a genius in the area of leadership. They trusted him because he had demonstrated a noble and incorruptible character and he had also shown himself to be an exceptional leader.
In the remainder of my presentation I shall, first, briefly outline the characteristics of a highly effective leader, second, illustrate Washington’s genius as a leader in his roles as commander in chief of the Continental Army, president of the Constitutional Convention and first President of the country, third, note what contributed to his being such a leader, fourth, suggest why his genius in the area of leadership has not been widely acknowledged and, fifth, suggest some things we can learn from him for our own daily living and in regard to our country.
Of all the founding fathers George Washington alone demonstrated fully the threefold characteristics of a visionary leader and the intellectual and moral capacity, over a long period of time and in the course of manifold difficulties, to maintain coherency between long-range ideas and goals and short term actions.
This is why, I believe, we can assert that George Washington was America’s supreme genius in leadership and thus became the Father of Our Country. Consider this assertion in terms of his roles as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army of the Revolution, the president of the Constitutional Convention and the first President of the United States of America.
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