By Tyler Vanice
Chair of the George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee
The George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee is about to be in full swing as winter draws near. I wanted to inform everyone that we are being more aggressive this year in our approach to events in a most paradoxical way; by being more civil. Civility is our theme this year. We have not tried using a theme before and we are going to experiment with this idea.
George Washington’s many virtues have inspired countless people throughout the world and many of us regard him as a true exemplar. It might have helped that he had written out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation when he was about sixteen years of age. They are based on a set of maxims originally compiled by French Jesuits in the 1590s that was eventually translated into English by Francis Hawkins, who was twelve years old at the time, as he copied them from French to English around 1640. Washington copied sections from Hawkin’s book Youth’s Behavior, Or, Decencie in Conversation Among Men, which was published in 1661, sometime about 1748. It’s believed that Washington wrote these rules to practice penmanship as it was common during the period. This practice very well could have had a lasting impression on this young man as he went on through life.
While some of these maxims may be outdated and seem silly, many them still reflect deeply to our society today even after two centuries from when Washington copied them. Many of the rules focus on how we should treat other people and less on own self-interests. As a society, we should always strive to be polite and courteous in our daily endeavors, much like Washington personified. While the words may be outdated, the meaning behind them are values we still hold dear.
The best way to show civility is by example. We hope you will attend some of the GWBCC-sponsored events throughout this year and will not only learn about Washington and his influence within Alexandria but can also take away some meaning that General Washington learned and preached many centuries ago.
We hope to see you attend our events this seasonal year. We would greatly appreciate feedback on your experiences with our events, whether it be a tour, the Cherry Challenge, the Parade, or one of our other many events. Find us on Facebook, BUT REMEMBER, be civil!
To link to the original scans of the “Rules of Civility,” click here.