Being a leader is hard.
No one will remember First Lady Laura Bushs Tuesday visit to Washington Mill Elementary School as well as fifth-grader Damian Floyd, who bravely succeeded in reading his article about President George Washington with a little help from his principal, Dr. Tish Howard.
Mrs. Bush visited the school built on land George Washington once owned near the Mount Vernon Estate. She launched Mount Vernons program, which invites schools to request free portraits of George Washington, originally painted by Rembrandt Peale in 1823.
When our class visited Mount Vernon, we learned that George Washington accomplished many things in his life, Floyd said to a crowd of about 530 of his fellow students; Dr. Jack Dale, Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools; Mrs. Shepard Ansley; Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and a Martha Washington impersonator (also known as Mary Wiseman from Historic Mount Vernon). Of all his important roles, the one he was most proud of was his contribution as a farmer.
Floyd soldiered on and completed reading his article though fighting tears. Public speaking is said to be adult humans second greatest fear, next to death.
Mrs. Bush, also once uncomfortable with public speaking, used her podium to educate the responsive school group of the first Presidents normal traits.
I want you to remember that George Washington was a man; he was a normal person just like you and I are, Mrs. Bush said. President George Washington loved his foxhound, Vulcan, and ate pancakes made of corn every morning she said.
Mrs. Bush has visited Mount Vernon often in her normal capacity, said Sally McDonough, Special Assistant to the President and Communications Director to Mrs. Bush, said. President and Mrs. Bush traveled to Mount Vernon with out-of-town visitors and their daughters, Jenna and Barbara, dating from 1987 when former President George H.W. Bush served as Vice President. Sometimes, they would take their boat to the historic estate.
We really love Mount Vernon, Mrs. Bush said.
George Washington also loved Mount Vernon and reluctantly left his Virginia home when Congress asked him to serve as President in 1789.
By bringing Washingtons portrait back into the classroom, he will serve as an example to students of character and civic responsibility, said Gay Hart Gaines of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
Students bounced their heads in time to the Fifes and Drums of Prince William, III during the event.
Mount Vernons George Washingtons Return to School program presently has funding for 2,000 free portraits and teacher resource kits for schools around the country.