February 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, George Washington AND Ted Kennedy

On this
day in 1732, George Washington was born in Virginia.

Washington worked as a surveyor and a planter, as a young man, before he became involved with the military. Of course you know that he eventually led the Continent
al Army against the British in the American Revolutionary War, and that after the United States became a country, he served as the nation's first president under the Constitution.

But you may not know these facts:

  • Washington was NOT the first president of the United States of America. Before the Constitution had been written, the new nation had been organized under the Articles of Confederation. This document was signed in 1781, and Congress (which included George Washington) elected John Hanson to be the first president. ...Hanson served a one-year term, and there were six other U.S. presidents under the Articles, before the Constitution was written and ratified.

That's why I said that George Washington was the “first president under the Constitution.”

  • The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in both 1789 and in the 1792 election. He's the only U.S. president to have received 100% of the vote.
  • The Precedent President – Washington very deliberately set precedent—that is, acted in a way that would serve as a good example to future presidents—in his brand-new job as president. For example, he wanted to turn down the large (for the time) salary of $25,000 a year, but he didn't want future presidents to have to be wealthy enough to work for free, so he changed his position. He refused to run for a third term as president—and that customary policy of only serving for two terms lasted for many years and is now codified in the Constitution. Washington wouldn't allow kingly titles or trappings, preferring a simple “Mr. President” over flowery honorifics.
And, exactly 200 years later...
On this day in 1932, Edward Moore Kennedy – known as Ted – was born in Massachusetts.

He was one of the younger brothers in an extraordinarily influential and important
family. You surely know that two of his brothers—John F. Kennedy, who became U.S. President, and Robert F. Kennedy, who became U.S. Attorney General and presidential candidate—were assassinated. You probably also know that Ted Kennedy served as senator for Massachusetts for 47 years and died in August, 2009.

You may not know these facts, though:

  • As a child Ted Kennedy lived, not just in MA, but also in Florida, New York, and London. He went to 10 different schools by the time he was 11.

  • His brother John, who was his godfather, wanted him to be named George Washington Kennedy because of the shared birthday.

  • Ted Kennedy climbed the Matterhorn while in the Military Peace Corps, stationed in Europe.
Did Washington chop down a cherry tree?
More importantly, did he confess the act to his father, saying, “I cannot tell a lie”?

Almost certainly not. This story was written—and, scholars say, invented—by a pastor and book seller named Mason Locke Weems. He first printed his biography of George Washington in 1800; this first biography of the first president was entitled Life of George Washington; with Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honorable to Himself, and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen.

Do a Washington word search puzzle from Apples 4 the Teacher. Or do you prefer jigsaws?

Read the book George Washington's Teeth
, by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora. The PBSKids site has some ideas for activities that go along with the book.

Watch a YouTube video
about Washington.
Speaking of YouTube videos, you gotta see this one: “From Washington to Obama in less than 4 minutes!”

Check out Ted Kennedy's Life in Pictures.

Ted Kennedy's Words

  • “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

  • “My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” (About Robert F. Kennedy)

  • “...[W]hen John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn't say, 'It's too far to get there. We shouldn't even try.' Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.”

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