George Washington was not always the first president of the United States. There was a time before that: the man who would one day lead the executive branch served in the British military. In the fall of 1754, young George was made lieutenant colonel and given a serious task - to march for the frontier.
First, he had to gather as many volunteers and supplies as he could muster. That meant accepting any "loose, Idle Persons" he could find. He also made note that most of the men he found were "selfwill'd" and "ungovernable". He knew he needed the help of the Indians in the area, but he also knew he couldn't rely on the Half Chief he had already dealt with.
In my reading in Edward Lengel's book, General George Washington, I am struck with how much George understood about human nature. It has been said that we have but one chance to make a good first impression, and that seems to be the idea behind George's effort. Sadly, however, things in October of 1754 didn't seem to be headed in George's favor, and not procuring the requested uniforms was just the first part of his misfortune.
Still, I don't think, in this instance, that he was merely trying to keep up with the Kardashians. Though he can rightly be criticized for being pretentious in appearance and activities, his reasoning for requesting red uniforms goes beyond that. While George probably sought some of the prestige and respect that should accompany a military uniform, he also wanted others to recognize him as their leader. This would affect the ragtag team of men who followed him into the wilderness, but it would also serve to show power to any allies he could collect.
A half-century later, we can study Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition to the West. When Lewis and Clark met with Indian leaders, they often donned their full military accouterments, undoubtedly to intimidate and impress.
There are lessons in this for fourth graders (and the rest of us):
- Dressing to get attention results in friends for the wrong reasons.
- Dressing to get attention can result in jealousy and resentment from others.
- What we wear makes a difference in the way other people see us.
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
- You do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Dress down, and you could end up being massacred in a mud pit.
Perhaps that's not fair, and perhaps it's wrong, but this is the way the world works. As an educator, I believe I should portray myself as professional. Sometimes that means I have to tuck my shirt in and put a tie around my neck - not to show off, but to show people that I put some thought into the matter, that I am a professional. If I want to be treated like a professional, I should appear professional (and act thusly).