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BELTON: Washington, Lincoln did most for cause of freedom
Belton, Dave
State Rep. Dave Belton

Last week was short with President’s Day, though we did pass some important bills. 

House Bill 146 provides state employees additional three weeks of paid parental leave for the life events of giving birth, adoption, or foster care. HB 154 makes it even easier to adopt children. HB168 protects the confidentiality of inmates with serious felonies by allowing district attorney access to inmate files. The minority party voted against this. 

In a surprise move, my Teacher Tax Credit bill that passed unanimously in two committees – and last year on the floor – has been sent back to yet another different committee. But my military-friendly bills that allow speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and counselors to more easily operate in Georgia should be on the floor this week. These compacts also increase healthcare accessibility via telehealth, especially to rural areas. 

In honor of President’s Day, I’d like to celebrate the two men in all of history (except for our Savior) who did more for the cause of freedom than any other.

George Washington fought in two wars. He was nearly gunned down countless times – his hat and his coat, riddled with bullet holes – and had two horses shot from under him in one battle alone.

Washington fought over 20 battles. He lost nearly almost all of them. But he understood that as long as he kept his army alive, he could purchase freedom for his nation.

The British called him the “old fox.” Cornwallis — commander of the best army on the planet — bragged that he would “bag him in the morning.” But it was Washington who bagged Cornwallis at his very complicated tri-nation/quad army, land and sea victory at Yorktown.

Washington didn’t write a single word of the Constitution. But his towering leadership, presiding over the impossibly divided delegates, led to the great compromises that created the single most important document in history.

Washington’s unassuming leadership as the first president of these United States ensured that all future presidents should lead with a servant’s heart. But his decision to step down from his lofty perch after two terms of service was his greatest achievement of all. When King George III of England heard what he had done, he called him the “greatest man in the world.”

Yet this giant was so humble, that in his Farewell Address, he actually apologized to the nation, saying, “I am too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.” He beseeched the almighty and his countrymen to look upon his “incompetent abilities with indulgence” after 45 years of faithful service. 

Everyone knows the first line of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. But few know the second and most important line. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation, so conceived in liberty and so dedicated, can long endure.”

This wasn’t a rhetorical question from a confident leader. It was heart-wrenching query from an embattled president, an admission of doubt from a beleaguered man who sent 600,000 to their deaths in what was, at the time, a losing effort to preserve a fledgling democracy. 

Did Lincoln know that his sacrifice would create the most powerful, most prosperous, most just nation on this planet? Of course not. America in 1863 was a weak, backwater nation.  

But he did know that, “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” was worth the cost, so that the “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Washington freed his own slaves in 1799, and framed a Constitution that would soon end slavery altogether. Just 64 years later, “the Great Emancipator” completed his work, freeing all of America’s slaves. 

“First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Dave Belton is a Republican from District 112 in the Georgia House of Representatives, serving Morgan and Newton counties.