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Today is President’s Day, and though most people think it synonymous with mid-winter break from school, it’s much more than that. It’s the day we celebrate the birth of two amazing men, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Our first president and our sixteenth, they were indispensable to the formation of our great country. I truly believe that they were chosen by God, instruments doing His will. Washington and Lincoln were ordinary men who accomplished extraordinary things, proof that God can use anyone for His purposes. Though they each suffered hardships, one cannot help but see God’s guidance and blessing upon their lives.
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. He was largely self-taught, having only the equivalent of an elementary education. His father died when he was 11, so his half-brother Lawrence became a father figure. He also had three siblings that died before adulthood. In 1751, George traveled with Lawrence to Barbados, hoping the climate would help Lawrence’s tuberculosis. While in Barbados, George contracted smallpox. This, however, immunized him against the disease.
Here are some facts: George did not wear a wig (as many thought), but had red hair and powdered it. He had great physical strength and Jefferson called him “the best horseman of his age.” When measured for his coffin, he was 6 feet 3 ½ inches. Most people have heard that Washington had false teeth (but they were not wooden!) At the time of his presidency, he possessed only one of his own teeth. Historians think he lost his teeth due to mercury oxide, which was probably given to him for smallpox. He was in constant pain because of his dental problems. When he said the presidential oath on April 30, 1789, he added the words, ”so help me God.”
One of the things that my Dad told me about Washington was that he was shot many times in battle, but never hit. There were bullet holes in his jacket, but never in his flesh. He always rode a white horse and led his men into battle, so imagine what an imposing figure (and target) he made. God saved him for a higher purpose.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. He, like Washington, was self-taught and had physical strength as well. As a young child, the only book he had to read was the Bible, which he read many times over. Lincoln had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He is the only president in American history to hold a patent, which was for a curious-looking wooden ship.
Tall, clumsy, and homely, Abraham Lincoln had an uphill battle in life. He was born into a poor farming family, and he hated farming. People did not take him seriously because of looks. He educated himself, became a lawyer, and eventually entered politics. Lincoln lost five elections before he became president. Instead of getting discouraged, he turned every opportunity into a learning experience. His faith in God guided him throughout his life. Leo Tolstoy called him “a Christ in miniature.”
Lincoln suffered much grief in his life. His mother died when he was nine and his sister died ten years later. At the age of 20, his fiancée died. Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd had four sons, three of which died. Only one son lived past the age of 18. Grief and depression engulfed him much of his life, but he kept his faith throughout. During the Civil War, he prayed for God’s will and guidance. Is there any question why we still celebrate Abraham Lincoln today?
There are so many similarities between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Though they were born 77 years apart and were not on the earth at the same time, they were God’s stewards. Common traits were humility, honesty, hard-working, perseverance, and integrity. They each were given immense responsibilities in the formation of our country, and that responsibility weighed heavily upon them. Though their paths were not easy, they had God’s hand upon them. That’s what’s so interesting about history: seeing God use ordinary men to execute His divine plan. May we remember these great men and seek to emulate them!