Glenn Beck frames Being George Washington as a book about “the indispensable man, as you’ve never seen him.” No description of the book would be comprehensive or accurate without that because it strikes at the quiddity of the book; it is a novel take on George Washington’s life, how he acted, and the virtues and impulses behind his actions.
Many of us want to defend the Founding Fathers from the attacks of the left, most of which are rooted in utopianism or utter historical illiteracy. However, we often don’t know how to do so.
Our defenses are often far too rooted in the minutiae of history, explanations and arguments about cultural norms, and anger at them for even broaching the subject. The better alternative is presenting a grand narrative about history, their virtue, and the magnificence of what they fought for and created. Being George Washington presents that narrative better than most other books, even His Excellency: George Washington.
For a serious student of history, reading Being George Washington probably isn’t necessary. It’s only about a few events in his life and is much more about presenting Washington in the positive light that he certainly deserves to be presented in than giving a complex and full telling of his life. But for those that want to shape minds, especially the labile minds of the young, in a way that teaches them to love America, Being George Washington is an indispensable book about the indispensable man, for reasons I will explain in this review of it.
Summary of Being George Washington by Glenn Beck
In Being George Washington, Beck uses a novel structure to develop his arguments. Each section can essentially be divided into two parts.
The first is a narrative account of the event described. With notes on what day, and even time, certain aspects of the event described transpired, Beck uses dialogue and storytelling to turn what would otherwise be bland historical events into engaging stories. That mode of writing helps him fully develop each chapter of Washington’s life, bringing to life the raw emotions present at the time, the atmosphere and conditions in which the events took place, Washington’s thoughts and virtues, and why each thing happened.
He then follows up those narrative chapters with they type of chapters one would expect from a biography or work of history. He gives the details necessary to fully flesh out the events he describes and construct a much more full picture of what was happening and why. That pairing of chapter types is mutually reinforcing and helps Beck keep the reader’s interest while also describing the events fully.
Being George Washington itself is about only a few events. After briefly telling the tale of Washington’s role in the French and Indian War, Beck then skips ahead to the Revolutionary War. First, he describes Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware and his army’s defeat of the Hessians despite the near-insurmountable odds he faced. Next is the story of how Washington kept the army together and alive at Valley Forge despite the incompetence of the Continental Congress and logistics apparatus. Then he contrasts Washington and Benedict Arnold, showing how Washington remained a patriot despite his sacrifices whereas Arnold became a turncoat for selfish reasons.
After those dark days, days Thomas Paine described as “the times that try men’s souls,” Being George Washington again skips ahead, this time to the last few years of the Revolutionary War. He tells the tale of how Washington capitalized on French aid and British hubris and defeated the British at Yorktown, then had to hold his army together and prevent a revolt or coup in the last year of the war.
Finally, Beck ends Being George Washington with Washington’s post-war service to his nation. He served as the head of the Constitutional Convention, holding it together and pushing for a necessary compromise that helped the young nation preserve itself. Then, despite wanting nothing more than to retire to Mount Vernon, he dutifully served as our first president, guiding the new nation through its early days during the age of federalism.
Each section follows the aforementioned design, first giving a narrative about what transpired and then filling the reader in on the smaller, but just as important details.
Additionally, Beck uses each chapter of Being George Washington to probe his point that Washington was truly indispensable to the patriot cause. He worked well with others, was humble, devoted to his nation, and, most importantly, was always willing to do his duty. Others, such as Benedict Arnold, were selfish and only willing to serve and sacrifice up to a point. They let their avarice and greed get the better of them, or just weren’t willing to serve their nation like Washington was.
But through it all, from crossing the icy Delaware to presiding over the stiflingly hot Constitutional Convention, George Washington did his duty because he knew that higher calling was far more important than his mortal pursuits. While others gave in to temptation, he held his head high and did what was asked of him.
Finally, unlike most every parasitic politician today, Washington was an honorable man. Beck takes pains in Being George Washington to point out how each event of his life showed Washington’s honorable and manly virtues; he stood by his troops, exposed himself to grave danger so that they would be inspired to do the same, suffered as they suffered, never complained, and always did what he needed to do. He was virtuous, well-mannered, and very patriotic. Washington was truly indispensable to the patriot cause; without him, we likely would have lost and even if we won the nation might not have held together.
My Take on Being George Washington by Glenn Beck
It was written years ago, 2011, to be exact, but Being George Washington is certainly a book for our times, in which the nation is fighting over whether 1619 or 1776 was the real beginning of America as we know it. Washington is one of the recipients of some of the left’s most vociferous (and, in my view, unfair) attacks because he was a slaveholder and, by the moral standards of these more enlightened times (or, perhaps, just more prosperous), that’s unacceptable to the new left.
Beck briefly addresses the slavery issue at one point in one chapter, but otherwise leaves it unmentioned. That decision was clearly intentional and, I think, the right one. George Washington is not important or notable because of slavery. He might have held slaves, but that shouldn’t affect our view of him in modern times. It was what large landholders did in those times, even if they knew it was wrong, and he participated in it.
But why should that color our view of the man? Will we really allow his participation in an institution that has existed since the beginning of times to affect how we view the man who was most responsible for the creation of America, a global force for good since its founding?
Beck’s view, a view I share, is that Washington’s accomplishments, virtues, and many good qualities are far more important than the slavery question. Washington was certainly a good man and needs to be honored, remember, and emulated.
In addition to that, Being George Washington is excellent because of how it frames the stories and presents Washington. Each story is carefully crafted to be fully true, but to also show Washington’s positive qualities and why he is a man we honor. He might not have been the best general, although attacks on his generalship should be tempered in recognition of what he was able to accomplish with a small, volunteer army of militia forces and newly-trained regulars against the superpower of the day and Hessian mercenaries, but he was a fantastic leader. He kept that small and much-suffering army together in its darkest days, preserving the flame of the revolution and keeping the dream of America alive.
And then, when it ended, he didn’t do what other leaders, such as Castro and Napoleon, almost always do after a revolution. Rather than seize power, he voluntarily relinquished it and tried to retire to his farm. Like Cincinnatus, he traded in his sword for a plow without anyone even asking him to do so.
As if that weren’t enough, he then re-entered public life to keep the union alive by masterfully handling the Constitutional Convention and then serving as our first president. He suffered, sacrificed, and never publicly complained or asked for reward, honor, or even recognition. He just did what he knew to be right whenever an opportunity to do so presented itself. We should all strive to be like him and Being George Washington shows why.
Being George Washington, while a reasonably good biography, isn’t a book for those who want to learn every minute detail of Washington’s life. It’s relatively short, is much more about narrative than history, and is written in a casual tone. The Last Lion it is not.
But for someone that wants to learn how to defend Washington, or teach the next generation why Washington was a great man, there is no better book. Beck does a wonderful job of crafting a powerful narrative about Washington’s life and teaches the reader how to do the same. In that respect, it is without par.
By: Gen Z Conservative