Monday, February 20, 2006

Happy President's Day!

Today two great American presidents are honored.

George Washington was a very tall man in a time when few Americans stood at six feet. He had a dream for independence from England, which would allow for the free worship of religion in America. But his small army was poorly equipped to withstand the highly trained and well equipped British forces. Washington had only 5,000 troops to command.

Haym Solomon, a Prussian born Jewish American businessman also had a dream of religious tolerance for Jewish Americans as well who faced many years of discrimination in Europe, long sanctioned by both governments and the church. Haym Solomon arranged no-interest loans to Washington's military from wealthy European Jewish families to buy guns and uniforms and to hire 7,000 mercenary soldiers to supplement the 5,000 American troops that Washington was both the first General and also Chaplain of.

With a keen respect for the free exercise of faith, and the goal of establishing nation free of a state run church, Washington eventually became the first American President.

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the closest to a saint or Biblical figure that the U.S. ever had as a leader. As a boy he learned to read with only a copy of the Bible in his humble home. In 1860 he won the sharply divided election with just 39% of the vote as the first candidate of the new Republican Party as the Whig Party collapsed, and Democrats were split into three factions that year.

His intense faith in God, rooted in his sincere and deep knowledge of the Bible gave him strength to be a long suffering figure similar to Job as well as a leader like Moses to keep the U.S. together as a union and to abolish the great evil of slavery.

Today the U.S. honors two great presidents who brought great values to this nation that often seem to go ignored. Washington's dream of a state where the sincere private practice of religion is respected, and there is not an establishment of a state church seems to face some challenges by both the far left and far right. And the dream of Lincoln of a land in which all men are equal are put to the test when a Black Athlete wins gold at the Olympics, but faces segregation and racism from his own allWhite team. Many of the dream's of these great American Presidents are still somewhat unfulfilled.

The U.S. needs to do more than simply honor these two great Presidents. But to honor the values that they stood for.


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