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Presidents’ Day note from Prof. Joseph Wood

Each February, Americans celebrate two holidays, one officially on the public calendar and one not: Presidents’ Day and the Super Bowl. This year, the two are linked in an unusual way.

The Super Bowl, with its spectacle and sport, draws the attention not just of football fans but of most Americans. One eagerly anticipated feature is the television advertisements during the game, into which are poured much creativity and resourcefulness.

This year, one ad in particular has caught our public imagination. Very simple in format, this ad for Ram pick-up trucks combined still photos of farmers, people of depth and character, with a subdued but vivid discourse by radio legend Paul Harvey on the simple virtues of the farmer: hard work, self-reliance, innovativeness, gratitude, sacrifice, patience in suffering, love for family and community and nation – in a word, the self-giving of the farmer that contrasts with many of the other entertaining ads we saw during the game.

One of the presidents we celebrate on Presidents’ Day is George Washington, who was born on February 22. We think of Washington mainly as a military and political leader of the highest caliber, but he was first and last a planter and farmer. From his plantation, to Valley Forge, to the presidency, and finally back to Mount Vernon, Washington lived the virtues we associate with farmers.

At IWP, we admire and seek to cultivate these virtues as well as the political principles of the American founding that Washington and the Founders gave us. And we do so very much in the context of the contemporary world, where threats to our principles and to the ordered liberty they make possible continue to multiply. Our students are at the forefront of the defense of these principles in the military, the intelligence agencies, businesses, strategic and foreign policy thinking, Congressional staffs, and all sectors of American society.

As we celebrate Presidents’ Day, we pause to salute those Americans and allies who, throughout our history and around the world, in every occupation and profession, have lived the virtues of the farmer, the virtues of George Washington. As that Super Bowl ad said at the end, the truth of those virtues and of the good life they encompass is “For the farmer in all of us.”

Prof. Joseph R. Wood
The Institute of World Politics