Tonight at 9 p.m. the National Geographic Channel will premiere The Real George Washington, as part of Expedition Week. The episode will join a archaeological team exploring the ruins of Washington’s childhood home and attempt to separate fable from fact in this life of our first president. We asked Mark McNeilly the author of George Washington and the Art of Business: Leadership Principles of America’s First Commander-in-Chief as well as Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles for Managers to take a look at the episode and tell us what he thought. His response is below. The views he expresses are his alone and are not meant to represent those of any company or institution with which he is affiliated.
I had the opportunity to preview the upcoming Nation Geographic Channel special on George Washington, titled The Real George Washington, which will be premiering on Wednesday, November 19th at 9PM Eastern. It was both interesting and entertaining, in that, as the title suggests, the special seeks to bring to life the man behind the myth. Yet, the investigative reporting approach tone of the video is at times a bit more cynical than perhaps is necessary.
While most of the facts and stories the special reveals are known to historians of Washington, to the general viewer they will be new. Tales of Washington as a spymaster, his love life, and his ambition to succeed do serve to make him much more three-dimensional and meet the special’s goal to reveal the “personality (that) has been lost behind an iconic veneer…”And new facts are brought to light through recent archaeological work at Washington’s boyhood home, which provide insights into his childhood. Another enlightening feature is work showing the reconstruction of what Washington really looked like, even at the young age of nineteen. Lastly, Washington’s relationship with the institution of slavery, provide another view on him as he dealt with this complex national and also personal issue.
In sum, while the tone of the special can be at times a bit off-putting, overall I think many will enjoy learning more about what the National Geographic Channel calls, “the founding father we hardly knew.”