A Life Lesson from THE Founder

Very few men have stood as tall as George Washington in their character, nobility, and humility. Among his peers of founding fathers, he is known as THE founder. The one who led his tattered army to victory in the fight for independence. The one who led his country toward stability as the first president. The one who stepped down from leadership in humility to create a stronger union not based on a monarchy. He is a hero of heroes in American history.

Unknown to many people is the fact that Washington began his military career as a British soldier, fighting in the French and Indian War. His first major assignment…a failure. He was tasked with forcing the French out of a fort in the Ohio River Valley in 1754. Washington built a weak fort, called Fort Necessity, toward the bottom of a valley. He was attacked by the French while waiting for reinforcements. This was the only battle that Washington ever surrendered. On July 4th, 1754, Washington left his makeshift fort and walked his beaten army back to Virginia with a humiliating letter from the French blaming him for the battle. After arriving home, Washington submitted his first resignation letter from military life.

What would the world be like if Washington had stayed in retirement? What if he let this first failure define him as a person? What if he lost confidence in his abilities? Washington found meaning in his mistakes. We discuss these events with our grammar school students and they think Washington could have learned numerous lessons from this event. Perhaps he learned to carefully reason through strategic military decisions. He certainly learned where not to build a fort. Maybe he learned that not all battles will be won and to focus on the greater war. Students notice he modelled perseverance and willingness to embrace struggles. They wonder and discuss what inspired him in these decisions.

No matter how he perceived this event, Washington did not let it stop him from returning to military service, rather he returned to help win the French and Indian War and eventually freedom for his beloved country in the American Revolution.