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Washington Emerges: Across the River and Into History

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In the course of human events, one thing remains certain: We forget. Somewhere over murky time, Washington's Birthday faded away, and was absorbed into another three-day holiday with no distinguishing marks except maybe ... Giant Sales! It is the American way. By celebrating all presidents equally on some made-up Presidents' Day, we now celebrate none in particular. Definition is lost; a generalized fuzz takes the place of the history that made us. And we forget.

We forget what it was like the winter after the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, and how all its brave words began to sound hollow as...