Toasting the Father of Our Country in Washington

Under a large painting of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Dr. David Bobb offered a spirited toast this week-to George Washington. This shouldn't  be unusual. After all, the entire city is named for George Washington. There's a 555-foot obelisk in the middle of the National Mall, placed there as a pointed reminder, in case you forget.

The scene was a bright and festive one on a bitter cold night. Hillsdale College's newly opened Kirby Center is a four-story brownstone town house, an elegant and beautiful facility celebrating the Constitution and Citizenship. In the large, open room, scores of young people-most of them students taking part in WHIP (the Washington Hillsdale Internship Program)-gathered on Washington's Birthday to hear about the Father of our Country and to take part in a social event.

It's easy to spot the Kirby Center (www.thekirbycenter.org) among the other brownstones on Massachusetts Avenue Northeast. It's the one with the tall flagpole and the lighted Stars and Stripes. If you look at Washington's family crest, you may see a certain resemblance to Old Glory.

As he raised his toast, Dr. Bobb quoted from The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. That book is often called Washington's, but it was he who received it and copied out its maxims when he was a young man. It may have come from the Jesuits, and it would be just like young Protestant Washington to accept wisdom and virtue from whatever worthy source.

Dr. Bobb's toast cited the last of those 110 rules that young Washington had painstakingly copied out, also using it as an exercise in good penmanship-Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial Fire Called Conscience.

It was singularly appropriate. What better advice could David Bobb give to the students there assembled? It was as if Washington was speaking to them from beyond the grave.

For several years, I had the privilege of teaching Witherspoon Fellows at Family Research Council. I always told my students the story of the young intern went on to work for the Majority Whip. He got tangled up in Capitol Hill intrigues. Though he came from a good Christian family, this young man succumbed to the lure of money and power. This young man, tragically, went off to prison.

All too often and all too sadly, Capitol Hill becomes the burial ground of conscience. Do not give in to that temptation, Dr. Bobb was telling these eager young people. No better advice was ever given.

Dr. Bobb pointed to another painting in the great assembly hall. This painting was also done by Sam Knecht, the chairman of Hillsdale College's Art Department. It shows a towering George Washington speaking in a columned hall with the diminutive James Madison. It represented the coming together of these two great Virginians of our past to craft a Constitution for the struggling new republic.

Neither man doubted the Hand of God was in that enterprise. Both of them said so and said it eloquently. Only now do scholars try to give us their own tricked up version of a "godless Constitution."

Today, we hear even the leaders of our country disparage the Founding. President Obama seems almost embittered about the Founding of this nation. "I couldn't have walked through the front door at this country's Founding," he said recently.

We don't know that. Clearly, he could not have been elected a delegate from one of the Southern States where slavery was not even then being abolished. But, if he had been elected to Congress by Massachusetts, and entered the Hall arm-in-arm with the famously anti-slavery Sam Adams, who knows? Or what if he had gone into law practice with young Alexander Hamilton in New York? Hamilton was running a shipping enterprise in the West Indies when he was eleven years old. Precocious Hamilton had seen slavery at its worst-and he hated it.

Or, might Barack Obama have entered Congress paired with Dr. Franklin? Just as Hamilton would describe George Washington as "an aegis very necessary to me," might young Obama have found a protector in the aged sage? Franklin's last public act would be to petition Congress for the emancipation of the slaves.

We do know no black men did attend the early sessions of Congress or the Constitutional Convention. A Catholic-Charles Carroll of Maryland-was among the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. He affixed his name on the same document as Rev. John Witherspoon, the Presbyterian pastor from New Jersey. That, in the world of 1776, was a miracle. Nowhere else on earth could you find a Catholic layman and a Protestant clergyman pledge to each other "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor."

That was the last toast of the evening. "To sacred honor." George Washington did not sign the Declaration. He was already in the field leading the fight for our Independence.

But no one personified Sacred Honor more than this "indispensable man."

I have been in Washington, D.C. for twenty-five years. This was the first time I have  attended such an amazing tribute to the Father of our Country. I hope it will not be the last.

Robert Morrison works at the Family Research Council.

Under a large painting of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Dr. David Bobb offered a spirited toast this week-to George Washington. This shouldn't  be unusual. After all, the entire city is named for George Washington. There's a 555-foot obelisk in the middle of the National Mall, placed there as a pointed reminder, in case you forget.

The scene was a bright and festive one on a bitter cold night. Hillsdale College's newly opened Kirby Center is a four-story brownstone town house, an elegant and beautiful facility celebrating the Constitution and Citizenship. In the large, open room, scores of young people-most of them students taking part in WHIP (the Washington Hillsdale Internship Program)-gathered on Washington's Birthday to hear about the Father of our Country and to take part in a social event.

It's easy to spot the Kirby Center (www.thekirbycenter.org) among the other brownstones on Massachusetts Avenue Northeast. It's the one with the tall flagpole and the lighted Stars and Stripes. If you look at Washington's family crest, you may see a certain resemblance to Old Glory.

As he raised his toast, Dr. Bobb quoted from The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. That book is often called Washington's, but it was he who received it and copied out its maxims when he was a young man. It may have come from the Jesuits, and it would be just like young Protestant Washington to accept wisdom and virtue from whatever worthy source.

Dr. Bobb's toast cited the last of those 110 rules that young Washington had painstakingly copied out, also using it as an exercise in good penmanship-Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial Fire Called Conscience.

It was singularly appropriate. What better advice could David Bobb give to the students there assembled? It was as if Washington was speaking to them from beyond the grave.

For several years, I had the privilege of teaching Witherspoon Fellows at Family Research Council. I always told my students the story of the young intern went on to work for the Majority Whip. He got tangled up in Capitol Hill intrigues. Though he came from a good Christian family, this young man succumbed to the lure of money and power. This young man, tragically, went off to prison.

All too often and all too sadly, Capitol Hill becomes the burial ground of conscience. Do not give in to that temptation, Dr. Bobb was telling these eager young people. No better advice was ever given.

Dr. Bobb pointed to another painting in the great assembly hall. This painting was also done by Sam Knecht, the chairman of Hillsdale College's Art Department. It shows a towering George Washington speaking in a columned hall with the diminutive James Madison. It represented the coming together of these two great Virginians of our past to craft a Constitution for the struggling new republic.

Neither man doubted the Hand of God was in that enterprise. Both of them said so and said it eloquently. Only now do scholars try to give us their own tricked up version of a "godless Constitution."

Today, we hear even the leaders of our country disparage the Founding. President Obama seems almost embittered about the Founding of this nation. "I couldn't have walked through the front door at this country's Founding," he said recently.

We don't know that. Clearly, he could not have been elected a delegate from one of the Southern States where slavery was not even then being abolished. But, if he had been elected to Congress by Massachusetts, and entered the Hall arm-in-arm with the famously anti-slavery Sam Adams, who knows? Or what if he had gone into law practice with young Alexander Hamilton in New York? Hamilton was running a shipping enterprise in the West Indies when he was eleven years old. Precocious Hamilton had seen slavery at its worst-and he hated it.

Or, might Barack Obama have entered Congress paired with Dr. Franklin? Just as Hamilton would describe George Washington as "an aegis very necessary to me," might young Obama have found a protector in the aged sage? Franklin's last public act would be to petition Congress for the emancipation of the slaves.

We do know no black men did attend the early sessions of Congress or the Constitutional Convention. A Catholic-Charles Carroll of Maryland-was among the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. He affixed his name on the same document as Rev. John Witherspoon, the Presbyterian pastor from New Jersey. That, in the world of 1776, was a miracle. Nowhere else on earth could you find a Catholic layman and a Protestant clergyman pledge to each other "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor."

That was the last toast of the evening. "To sacred honor." George Washington did not sign the Declaration. He was already in the field leading the fight for our Independence.

But no one personified Sacred Honor more than this "indispensable man."

I have been in Washington, D.C. for twenty-five years. This was the first time I have  attended such an amazing tribute to the Father of our Country. I hope it will not be the last.

Robert Morrison works at the Family Research Council.