Presidents’ Day was originally celebrated to honor George Washington on his birthday, February 22nd. The Founding Fathers have traditionally been granted great respect, and their achievements were indeed immense. They created the first modern country based on liberal principles, as laid out in the Declaration of Independence. The country they built was also the first large-scale republic in the modern world. Yet, in recent years, scholars have put forth a more balanced view of the founders, acknowledging their failures as well as their successes.
Despite their shortcomings, the early founders of our nation, up through current presidents, chose to do hard things, put others first, and create something bigger than themselves based on their core values. We don’t have to agree with everything someone does in order to respect their efforts and work, and the ideals behind it. Our Founding Fathers may be esteemed for getting the United States of America started, but they were still regular people, with all-too-human quirks, personality flaws, and family issues.
If they were so humanly flawed, how did these men come to create a great nation? One answer is that in British society at the time, power and influence were typically based on inheritance. But in the colonies, everything was new–creating opportunities for those with talent and a strong work ethic to succeed. The result was what Jefferson called “a natural aristocracy” based on merit instead of bloodlines. In Britain, men such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin would never have come to power because of their humble origins. Instead, they were able to break through those social barriers to become leaders in the Revolution, and help shape the colonies into a new nation.
Even as the Founders are reevaluated by modern scholars, their legacy remains undeniable and ever present. The Constitution they drafted is the oldest written national constitution still in use. The diversity of opinions among the Founding Fathers were what allowed them to create a new, successful nation and also led to the creation of the first political parties. This culture of debate and political opposition is another legacy of the Founders that remains fundamental to American politics today and provides the ability to learn from each other and decide what’s best for the nation as a whole.