Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Memories - The Presidents

I can still see my second grade teacher as we copied sentences from the board to practice our penmanship. She wore a tight, white, red polka-dotted dress, spiked heels, and filed and blew on her bright red fingernails behind her desk.

Had I not been so preoccupied with her personal habits, I might have better etiquette.

At least, historians tell us that is how George Washington developed such impeccable manners. When he was a schoolboy he copied Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, a collection of truisms that "no gentleman's library could be without.”

President Washington’s biographers give credit to this school exercise as a major influence in shaping his behavior.

Some of my favorite sentences that President Washington copied are:
  • Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak 
  • When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered. 
  • Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails. 
  • In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein. 
  • Give not Advice without being Ask'd & when desired do it briefly.
  • Let your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull. 
  • Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile. 
  • Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any. 
  • Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely 
  • Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience 
One of my favorite stories of George Washington is the one that happened during the French and Indian war when all of the other mounted officers, except George Washington, were shot and killed.  Mr. Washington wrote, “I luckily escaped without a wound, tho’ I had four bullets through my Coat, and two Horses shot under me.”  After this experience, the Indians referred to him as a “particular favorite of Heaven and who can never die in battle.”

And a Happy President's Day to you as well, Mr. Lincoln. 

Duty.  Honor.  Country.  Presidents Washington and Lincoln lived with integrity, great character, and personal sacrifice what General Douglas MacArthur later taught "custodians of the nation's defense" or soldiers to do:

"Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn." (General Douglas MacArthur)

Thank you Mr. Presidents.  I hope I don't let you down or take for granted what you helped to establish.

1 comment:

Gail said...

I enjoyed the excerpts from the "Rules of Civility". Amazing how each and everyone applies still today. Thanks Jane. Now I have to go find that and read the rest!