George Washington: Why We Celebrate Him Today

General George Washington's army marching to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777
General George Washington’s army marching to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777

We all know George Washington was the first president of the United States, but many don’t know why. History remembers Washington favorably because of how key his leadership was during the revolutionary war – specifically his character, presence and steadfast commitment to the cause. These traits are what made him so different and is what paved the way for him becoming one of the most memorable men in the history of the United States.

As a commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, General Washington overcame tremendous deficits in manpower, training, equipment and funding, to rally a “rag tag” army to defeat one of the great powers of the 18th century. In fact, he also had never led an Army or large group of forces before. Instead of being remembered specifically for his military tactics on the battlefield, it was his ability to keep his men united during such physical and emotional hardships that years later inspired his countrymen to create a holiday in his honor.

Leadership from the front

Known for his exemplary bravery and presence, General Washington had two horses shot out from beneath him and four bullet holes in his jacket from the times he rallied his men in battle from the front.

Defeated but not broken

After the tremendous loss at the hands of British General William Howe and his 20,000 man force during the battle of Long Island in August 1776, General Washington smartly maneuvered his outgunned 9,000 man Army so it could fight another day. Unfortunately, the next opportunity to fight at the Battle of Fort Washington, led to the loss of nearly ⅓ of his force as over 2800 American soldiers were captured by the British in another stunning defeat. Fortunately, Washington and his demoralized forces withdrew all the way across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania in November 1776 so they could fight another day.

Turning the tables

The British would not have to wait too long for that day. With moral low and desertion high, General Washington rallied his final 2400 men and crossed the Delaware river on Christmas 1776 to attack and defeat a well trained Hessian force. To make matters even worse for the British, Washington withdrew back across the Delaware and badly defeated the superior British counter attack that quickly followed. Earning the nickname “the fox” Washington had a keen instinct in deciding when to fight and when not. Washington was able to keep his force alive and effective against the British long enough to convince France that it should support the American cause, which eventually was victorious in 1781.

Colonel’s know tactics but General’s know logistics

While Washington had much to contend with tactically against the British, perhaps a bigger challenge was logistically sustaining his force against such a strong foe. Washington was able to overcome the severe challenges of equipping and feeding his forces. His consistent drive to succeed for the cause enabled him to overcome the obstacles found when having to deal with a struggling congress and 13 new states in order to ensure critical funding and supplies were available for the Continental Army.  Eventually, he selected the right person – General Nathaniel Greene – to overhaul the Army’s supply system and sustain the force so it could continue to fight.

Comparison to the workplace

Imagine entering a workplace with poorly trained staff that have minimal, if any, resources in which they can perform their duties. Then try attempting to beat your technologically advanced and highly trained opponents.  It’s similar to small companies having to compete against Wal Mart and Amazon. How can your business not just survive but defeat such a superior force? Even Hollywood understands the issues as found in HBO’s Silicon Valley where the tech startup works in their dining room and goes up against the Google lookalike, “Hooli”.

Most professionals can relate to the frustrations that come along with not having an essential item in which you need to perform your work. Now imagine if not only your life depended on it, but so did your family’s and country’s. This was the scenario for General Washington. His men had come to America to discover new land and a new way of life. From militia to soldiers, they took on the powerful British army and defeated it.

Overcoming adversity in a seemingly hopeless situation is what makes not only a good story, but a great mentor. George Washington spearheaded the quest of America acting as David beating the mighty Goliath. It wasn’t accomplished through better training or technology. All the latest gadgets and software systems won’t make you beat your opponent.

It is done by leadership.

George Washington’s ability to boost morale and rally the Colonial Army is the American version of Braveheart. His sometimes barefoot men attacked with vigor, hope, and emotional support from their leader.

So next time you find yourself in a situation of professional despair with low morale circling the office like the flu, remember the first true American:

The inspirational underdog.

The against-all-odds victor.

The man with moral courage worthy of the title as the first President of the United States of America.

For additional knowledge on President George Washington, check out https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/george-washington and https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-revolutionary-war/ten-facts-about-the-revolutionary-war/

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