President Washington's life celebrated in 'Boro lecture

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 19th, 2020 at 9:23 PM

With Presidents Day just around the corner, the Jefferson Educational Society knew how to commemorate the occasion.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Richard Jay Arthur spoke at Edinboro University to celebrate first U.S. President George Washington’s life in Pennsylvania.

Arthur, a veteran Army officer of 23 years, was eager to share his life’s passion with the audience. He discussed Washington’s time in Pennsylvania at length — from his first diplomatic mission in 1753, all the way through 1798, where he returned once more to provide military advice to the Adams administration.

Arthur began his presentation in the audience, saying: “When he was just a very young man, George Washington wanted to become part of the Virginia gentry. He made plans to work himself out of his upper-middle class status to become part of the elite. As an adolescent, he wrote out rules, [and] tried to prepare a path so that he could become a major landowner, a major slave-owner, a member of the Virginia militia, and a member of the House of Burgesses.”

He continued: “That was the path that he planned for himself. But, in time, he became the father of our country. George Washington had walked quite different paths from the ones he had planned as a young man.”

As he ascended the stage, he fixed on the audience with a knowing look, as if to say: now, doesn’t that sound familiar?

Arthur also shared his belief that George Washington was the “best traveled — most extensively traveled of all the Founding Fathers,” having been to all of the 13 states. He also explained that the paths he took led him through the heart of our very own Pennsylvania.

“Here, he was tested. Here, he was given opportunity. Here, he made himself into the man that we’ve come to revere as our most important person in American history.”

Arthur set the tone of the presentation with lighthearted quips about Washington’s first diplomatic mission.

“His instruction was to deliver a letter to the French with the very simple message: leave. Washington left in the fall with a very experienced guide, recommended by (Robert) Dinwiddie, a man by the name of Christopher Gist, who could translate, somewhat, with Native languages. He also took along his fencing instructor, who was Dutch, who spoke French, kind of.

He continued: “Now, one of the things that I will do tonight, from time to time, is I’m going to give a little reality check. These are textbooks from 100 years ago that were used in American schools. Sometimes, I’m going to fact check them and see if they’re just as accurate as George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.”

True to his word, he did fact check the old textbooks numerous times throughout the presentation. He also went on to discuss Washington’s abrupt resignation, stolen turkeys, and the first peaceful transition of power the world had ever seen.

Arthur concluded by saying: “When George Washington died, in the last couple days of the 18th century, his fellow Virginian Henry Lee said he was ‘first in war, first in peace, and first in heart ... I offer that he became a much greater man than Virginia alone could have ever made him.”

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