History does make students of us all, if we are but willing to learn. History is amazing. It causes us to remember, to ponder, to learn from it and to be our best selves for the sake of the future.
A visit to Mount Vernon, Washington’s home on the Potomac River, was a day steeped in history. We learned about the young man, the entrepreneur, the early military failures, the husband and step-father, the land owner, the farmer, the General, and the President. Truly, he left many marks on American history, most of which I was unaware of.
Most notable among his many attributes was his ability to say “No.” When military advisors and fellow troops argued against movement to cross the Delaware River during that harsh winter, Washington said “No” to their hesitations and planned and ordered the crossing anyway. After the Revolution saw victory, when enthusiastic citizens wanted to make him King, he said “No,” there would be no monarchy in this country and he would not be a king.
His “No” was firm, but it allowed a subsequent “Yes.” He became our first president. His life was filled with the “yeses” of public service and thoughtful leadership, but many of those “yeses” came following a firm “no” to something else.
If we do not allow ourselves to say “no” to some things, we may never have the opportunity to say “yes” to the more important thing.
I learned the grace of this wisdom from the halls of history and the beauty of Mt. Vernon, planned, built, occupied and left behind by a man who knew how to say “no.”