As soon as the Christmas decorations come down, the Valentine decorations go up. I love that! I love that there are still red decorations after Christmas. How drab everything would be if there were no red hearts.
February is also known for the birthdays of two famous presidents. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, and George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. Both men are pivotal pillars of American history. Both men were perfectly placed in the timeline of American history at just the right time. It is doubtful that any other men could have served our young nation as well. They were each born “For such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) I believe it is appropriate that they are associated with the month of red hearts for they were men who loved God, loved their fellow Americans, and loved America. Each courageously led our nation at a time of war and bloodshed. Our nation as we know it would not exist without their leadership and faith in God.
George Washington is often called the “Father of our nation” because he was our first president. Prior to being president he was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. In the American Revolutionary War, General Washington led Patriot forces to victory over the British and their allies. He exemplified leadership as commander of the Continental Army and president of the Constitutional Convention.
During the winter of 1777-1778 Washington moved the Continental Army to their winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The colonial capital of Philadelphia had fallen to the British, and the rebels were suffering from cold, hunger, and fatigue, but also from low morale. It was a brutal six month encampment lacking adequate food and supplies. Diseases, such as typhus and smallpox, and a lack of protection from the weather caused the death of more than 2,000 soldiers. It was reported that lack of shoes and socks resulted in bloody footprints in the snow. Washington endured the same hardships as his soldiers, yet he provided steady leaderships which was crucial in keeping the army intact through the hardships of that winter. There was never a mass desertion or mutiny at Valley Forge.1
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. He was a self-taught lawyer, legislator, and vocal opponent of slavery. He was elected to the office of US President in November 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. On January 1, 1863 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a presidential and executive order that changed the federal and legal status of more than 3.5 million African Americans from slave to free. As the Declaration of Independence is relevant to the Revolutionary War, the Emancipation Proclamation is relevant to the Civil War. The Revolutionary War was fought for the purpose of establishing the new nation, while the Civil War was fought to keep it from splitting apart.2
Like Washington, whom he greatly admired, Lincoln was an accomplished military strategist and strong leader. Honest Abe prayed for God’s wisdom in leading this nation. He was aware of his own human limitations and need for God’s strength, intervention, and deliverance. He was aware of his grave responsibility and the consequences of the decisions he made. He grieved the loss of life in both the Union Army as well as the Confederate Army. President Lincoln led the United States through the bloodiest war in its history and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis.
Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A portion of the battlefield was being dedicated as The Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg where just four months earlier the decisive Battle of Gettysburg had been fought. Soldiers from both the North and the South are buried there. The Gettysburg Address is considered to be one of the most famous pieces of oratory in American history. It is well remembered, contrary to Lincoln’s own words, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”3
It is fitting in February that we remember these two truly great US Presidents. Washington led the fight to establish our great nation. Lincoln led the fight to hold it together. Both were men of exemplary ethical standards and moral excellence. They were humble men who prayed to the God of the Bible and sought His wisdom. They lived out our nation’s motto.
“In God we trust,”