“From the last week of August to the last week of December,” writes David McCullough,
. . . the year 1776 had been as dark a time as those devoted to the American cause had ever known–indeed, as dark a time as any in the history of the country. And suddenly, miraculously it seemed, that had changed because of a small band of determined men and their leader.
. . . .
[That leader George Washington] was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual. At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness. He had made serious mistakes in judgment. But experience had been his great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he l earned steadily from experience. Above all, Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.
Again and again, in letters to Congress and to his officers, and in his general orders, he had called for perseverance–for “perseverance of spirit,” for “patience and perseverance,” for “unremitting courage and perseverance.” Soon after the victories of Trenton and Princeton, he had written: “A people unused to restraint must be led, they will not be drove. Without Washington’s leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the revolution almost certainly would have failed.
What accounts for this great’s perseverance against such incredible odds? Perhaps we would know more had his wife Martha not burned all but two of his letters. Perhaps, his strength lay in the cause for which he fought or perhaps in the depth of his love for her.
Whatever its cause, the Father of our Country does provide an example of leadership in tough times, a reminder to keep your head up even as the events — and your enemies — bring you down. That’s not just a reminder for leaders, but for all of us.
We all have down days, weeks even. And sometimes even longer.
We should learn from George Washington to severe in times of trial and not to whine about our sorry fate — or problems we “inherited.” We have all inherited problems.
It is not always easy. And we do not always succeed. Sometimes we just can’t seem to find the perseverance which drove General Washington. But, when we do, we do occasionally find the strength to overcome obstacles which seem (to us at least) as insurmountable as those he faced. And our triumphs seem as miraculous as he.
If you haven’t already, just read the book. And if you have few extra hours to spare, Ron Chernow’s biography is well worth your time.