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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Washington: Genius With Judgment

In a time when there were neither Democrats nor Republicans and in fact, political parties were just beginning to rear their heads, it’s interesting to look at Washington’s leadership style.

According to Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington, our first president’s “genius was his judgment.” Ellis believes that Washington was a central figure in two distinct creative moments in U.S. history – winning independence and the invention of the American nation.

The author of the library’s All Fairfax Reads selection continues by saying he believes that Washington’s skills may rest in part because he was a self-educated man. “Though it might seem sacrilegious to suggest, Washington’s powers of judgment derived in part from the fact that his mind was uncluttered with sophisticated intellectual preconceptions.”

He was, in summary, a pragmatist who believed that “men and nations were driven by interests rather than ideals, and that surrendering control to another was invariably harmful, often fatal.”

Ellis believes Washington’s decision to resign as commander-in-chief of the Continental army, as well as his wish to step down after his first term as president ended, also are mirrors into his character.

Ellis suggests: “He knew himself well enough to resist the illusion that he transcended his human nature. Unlike Julius Caesar and Oliver Cromwell before him and Napoleon, Lenin, and Mao after him, he understood that the greater glory resided in posterity’s judgment.”

You can learn more about Washington’s character at a special appearance by Ellis on September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. The author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington, will discuss his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Other All Fairfax Reads events include:

September 18 at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing, courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.

September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.

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