Policymakers | General Education

Remember George Washington on his 282nd birthday

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL   |  February 21, 2014 by Anne D. Neal

Saturday marks George Washington’s 282nd birthday, and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is urging communities across America to celebrate this milestone. Gov. Scott Walker has issued a special proclamation declaring Feb. 22 George Washington Day and calling on Badgers everywhere to take note of this remarkable man.

Did you know that Washington was the only president to be elected unanimously—not once but twice? That he ran the largest and most profitable distillery in the New World? And that he was the general at Yorktown when American forces defeated the greatest army on Earth?

These are just a few of the incredible accomplishments of our first president. And they are fascinating facts that you can learn by visiting Mount Vernon or by surfing the Mount Vernon website (mountvernon.org), which will give you a “virtual” introduction to the general.

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association was formed in 1853 by Ann Pamela Cunningham to save the home of George Washington. For more than 150 years, the association has been responsible for preserving and restoring the estate and for educating people around the world on America’s first president. We rely entirely on private funds to do so and are grateful to patriotic Americans in Wisconsin who provide generous support.

As it turns out, Wisconsin has played an important role in preserving Mount Vernon from the beginning. Mrs. Alexander Mitchell of Milwaukee was a member of the first board and served from 1858-1902.

Regrettably, in too many ways, we find that Washington’s legacy is fading away. Two hundred years ago, every American knew his bravery, leadership and impeccable character. But not so today. A survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni shows that college graduates more readily identify Lady Gaga than Washington at Yorktown.

To draw attention to Washington’s remarkable legacy and leadership, Mount Vernon is offering free Washington portraits, a celebration kit, lesson plans, and American flag to any interested school in the state. Currently nearly 250 schools in Wisconsin are home to exceptional replicas of the porthole portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale. And nearly 8000 portraits grace schools around the country.

The only thing that a school needs to do is complete and return a request reform that can be found on the Mount Vernon website or contact Yvonne Jones at Mount Vernon (yjones@mountvernon.org).

We at Mount Vernon distribute the portraits because we want students to be reminded that America “just didn’t happen.” A zealous handful of patriots—led by Washington—risked everything to create the world’s first true republic. Too many Americans simply take this for granted.

We hope Wisconsin families will take advantage of Washington’s birthday to learn more, visit our website or consult the Washington Encyclopedia under educational resources. Teachers can take advantage of the portraits, excellent lesson plans and other materials that we make available free of charge.

Let’s celebrate Washington’s 282nd. Help us keep Washington “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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