Thomas Sowell

There have been many insurrections and revolutions in history, but the American revolution was one of the few that did not end in tyranny, like the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, for example. George Washington was a big part of the reason why American freedom not only persisted but spread, both internally and internationally.

As late as Abraham Lincoln's time, the United States was still an experiment. As Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, the terrible war then going on -- the bloodiest ever fought in the Western Hemisphere -- was testing whether government of the people would perish from the earth.

We cannot take for granted the hard-won blessings of this country -- created by the wisdom and character of people like George Washington, as well as the blood and deaths of the patriots who supported them -- and then also demand that their words and deeds mirror our notions today, in a time with much easier choices.

No one called the United States a superpower in George Washington's time. The big question was whether it could survive at all, in a world of bigger and more powerful nations, all on the lookout for more prey for their empires.

Putting the country together and keeping it together was the key to whatever chance it had for survival. To act as if the Constitution of the United States could have been written as if it were an exercise in abstract principles, discussed around a seminar table, is to betray both ignorance and moral hubris.

We should never forget that British troops marched through the capital of the United States in the early 19th century and set fire to the White House. But of course millions of Americans cannot forget that because they were never taught it in the first place. What they have been taught is silly political correctness about dead white males. When you lose your national memory, you risk losing what you need for understanding your own time -- and you risk losing the future as well as the past.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate