Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Would George Do?

Today’s Book for Good Behavior

By Doc Lawrence

“Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation transcribed by George Washington before age 16.

Courtesy of Pelican Publishing
Our first president was our country’s moral compass. Fact and legend supports the popular notion that the “Father of our Country” was an honorable man, very selfless and generous, acting at all times with a high degree of modesty. While he was a victorious military leader and clever strategist, his assumption of power as out first national leader was with reluctance. The man who could have become king of the new country never sought any public office after the presidency and retired to Mount Vernon to make really good whiskey.

George and Martha Washington were highly successful distillers and, thanks to a combined effort of the US government and the distillery industry Mount Vernon is again producing American whiskey.

A complex person, Washington exemplified charm, elegance, decorum, patience and certain gentleness common to many Southerners. If there was a prototypical Virginia gentleman, it was Washington. Nan Marshall and Helen Broder’s delightfully instructive new book, What Would George Do? Advice from Our Founding Father (Pelican Publishing) is both a tribute to Washington’s social graces and a tutorial for those of all generations whose manners could do with a little polishing.

The authors, mother and daughter, take Washington’s Rules of Civility (which he learned and practiced from the precepts of refinement complied by French Huguenots around 1640), and adapt them to everyday interactions we all experience. Why is it so necessary to rush and be too busy to stop and smell the roses? As the book makes fundamentally clear, George Washington the farmer, businessman, warrior and American president would have loved to walk through and enjoy a neighbor’s flower garden.
Helen Broder  (L) with Nan Marshall

In a world infested by irritating, almost never-ending cell phone conversations, texting, rudeness and boisterous banter, our nation needs this book and the lessons that can be be learned therefrom. The expansion of Washington’s Rules by the authors embodies common sense, thoughtfulness, modesty and quiet conversation. Listening, according to the authors, is de rigueur and above all, when we have respect for everyone, we are walking in Washington’s footsteps. Respect as practiced by Washington would be afforded to the shoeless, largely uneducated and almost uniformly poor Revolutionary infantrymen in portions equal to his British enemies, wealthy neighbors and powerful contemporaries like Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton and Adams.

Never wonder why Washington was almost universally loved and admired.

This book that should be on the required reading list for today’s elected officials. Unfortunately, good behavior for some must be learned. Follow Washington’s advice and good things might just come out of government. Like the proverbial journey, building bridges of understanding begins with the first step.

For those who welcome new friendships and delight at strengthening old ones, What Would George Do? deserves a place by your nightstand where you do contemplative reading. The book is a trove of solid American wisdom and reason with a dash of Southern gentility.

And what a useful gift.

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