Washington’s Birthday

Perhaps there never was another man, 
whose personal character and conduct 
exercised an influence, so powerful and so 
beneficial, on the destiny of a great nation.                 
James Grahame

Many of us remember Washington and Lee’s Founders Day commemorations, held each year on January 19, Robert E. Lee’s birthday, as providing an occasion to celebrate the material contributions that both Lee and Washington made to the school, and calling to remembrance as well the inestimable values and traditions they imparted to it.  We also remember, however, that this long-standing tradition of Founders Day, with its university-wide Convocation, has now been erased from the University calendar by the W&L Administration and Board of Trustees in their relentless campaign to rid the campus of Lee’s legacy, and perhaps to a lesser degree Washington’s as well, essentially branding the university’s namesakes as a stain upon the campus and insufferably antithetical to the school’s current Woke agenda.

January 19, Lee’s birthday, has this year already slipped by us, but Washington’s birthday of February 22 remains to us as an opportunity to resurrect for our own edification some part of what W&L has destroyed by abolishing Founders Day.  It gives us pause to take stock of our struggle to save Washington and Lee and to brace ourselves for a continuance of the contest, as well as to refresh our spirits with the legacy that George Washington himself left to the school.  Not only did Washington’s financial largess likely save the tiny Liberty Hall Academy from eventual extinction, but his exalted personal ideals of dignity and integrity of character necessarily attached themselves to his gift, as well as attaching themselves to his name, also eventually bestowed upon Liberty Hall Academy — personal ideals that indeed came to us at W&L even more directly through Lee himself, since Lee reputedly chose Washington as the model upon which to form his own code of personal conduct and honorable character, and which code was infused into the fabric of the institution during his five-year presidency of it.  Let us not, then, overlook the influence of the great Washington in shaping the traditions we seek to restore to Washington and Lee.

On this his birthday, I close with the poetic tribute to Washington made by the famous English poet, Lord Byron (1788-1824):

Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
And freedom find no champion and no child,
Such as Columbia saw arise, when she
Sprung forth a Pallas, arm’d and undefil’d?
Or must such minds be nourish’d in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest, ‘midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing nature smiled on
Infant Washington? Has earth no more such
Seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?

Byron seems to have considered Washington as almost unique, given that he saw no men of comparably elevated character then present on the European scene.  That Washington’s character left its imprint on the infant American nation is undeniable, becoming perhaps the root of genuine “American Exceptionalism,” and it left an equally deep imprint on Washington and Lee University, an imprint we are now at risk of seeing rubbed away, both as a nation and as a university.

At the cost of bringing certain disgrace upon myself when following the incomparable Byron, I nevertheless offer in the link immediately below some verses containing my own thoughts on this day, George Washington’s Birthday, 2023.  


Take heart, and keep the faith,

Kenneth G. Everett
W&L Class of 1964     

Please donate to The Generals Redoubt to pay for professional research related to defending Lee Chapel as a National Historic Landmark, for future funding to educate students about the rich history and legacy of Robert E. Lee, and to help bring back diversity of thought.  As of February 20, 2023, confidential contributors have given a new matching gift of $220,000.00.  We need your help if we are to save Lee Chapel as a campus and national treasure.  Thank you in advance for your support.  Information on how to contribute is found at  https://www.thegeneralsredoubt.us/support