Commemorating the 100th day of the 100th year of the Potomac School, Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, read to children in grades kindergarten through sixth last Tuesday, sharing her new book on George Washington the day after his birthday.
Cheney was introduced by fourth-grader Kate Perry.
“This is my grandmother,” the pretty blond girl said. “She’s written many books, and she likes to tell stories. I’m very proud she’s my grandma.”
Giving Cheney a quick hug, she sat down with the rest of her class.
“When I was going to school, we learned a saying, that George Washington was ‘first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen,’” Cheney said. “He was also called the ‘Indispensable Man” because he was very resourceful and a great leader,” she said.
Ironically, she told the children, Washington was selected to be commander of the militias of his day because “he showed up to the Congressional Congress in his uniform,” she said.
Celebrating Washington’s birthday is important to the history of this country because of the instrumental role he played not only in the creation of the United States, but also for his leadership and dedication to the men who served under him before there was a unified, trained army in existence.
“During the Revolutionary War, we fought against the British, and they were really well-trained. We’ve taken on a big fight,” she said, opening the pages of her newest book for children, “When Washington Crossed the Delaware.”
“AS YOU CAN imagine, the battle didn’t go well, and we were kicked out of New York and chased out of New Jersey. But Washington had a good idea,” she said. “He decided to take all the boats he and his men could find, cross the Delaware River and kept the boats so the British couldn’t follow them.”
It was easy to track the Americans, however. Lack of funding, training or supplies left them shoeless, and when their feet were injured the men would wrap them in rags, which would leave bloody footprints in the snow.
“Life was pretty miserable for George Washington and his men,” she said. “Looking back, you have to wonder, how could we ever be free?”
Cheney went on to tell how Washington and his men devised a surprise attack against the British, the fabled crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Night. The men not only had to transport the 2,400 soldiers but also 18 guns and a few hundred horses, all by boat, she said.
“Every year, or almost every year, people try to re-enact this battle, but the last few years they haven’t been able to because of bad weather,” she said. “It’s amazing to think that George Washington did it in his time, without what we have now.”
She told of the Battle of Trenton, another surprise attack orchestrated by Washington, the march to Princeton and the fact that Washington is the only president to have been unanimously elected by his countrymen.
“He was a brave man. He had two horses shot out from under him, and his uniform had bullet holes in it,” Cheney said. “George Washington and his men stood together in a time of crisis because they could imagine their struggle had a glorious end.”
Fifth-grader John Spidi asked Cheney about a battle where men were shooting at the British from trees.
“Well, at the first battle of the Revolutionary War, at Concord, the British soldiers knew Americans were keeping their weapons in a barn. This is the Paul Revere story,” she told him, adding that when Revere was arrested, there was a fight that began at Lexington which lead to the British being run out of the town with men firing from trees.
EMILY SHAIN, a fifth-grade student, asked Cheney what inspired her to be a writer. Cheney said her children and grandchildren inspired her to write. “There was also a family in Wyoming, in a really small town, and one of the women was a writer,” she said. “I thought it was so interesting that she had a voice, even from the back of a gas station, through her writing.”
Cathy Voeks, the centennial coordinator for the Potomac School’s anniversary, said the timing “could not have been more perfect. She was bringing her book on George Washington right after his birthday, it was great.”
The school was able to invite Cheney as a speaker through a series of personal and more formal contacts, including personal aides, but having her granddaughters at the school helped.
The entire Distinguished Speakers Series has included a diverse range of speakers, she said, and the students have responded well to it.
“It’s such a great opportunity for the students, who have come to me with suggestions and ideas for other speakers,” she said. The series will continue past this year, “hopefully for many more years to come.”