Christmas hope from our nation’s history

Reno Gazette Journal December 20, 2020

Christmas is nearly upon us. While this is normally a time of joy and celebration, for many families, this Christmas is also a time for sorrow as we look around the table only to realize that we have lost someone over the past year. Nearly three million American lives have been lost since last Christmas, with almost ten percent of that attributable to COVID. Even those who weren’t directly impacted by COVID have suffered economic hardship due to the COVID related shutdowns.

While 2020 has been particularly tough for most of us, during these trying times, we can gain strength from our nation’s history. As the sun rose on Christmas Day in 1776, the Patriots were coming off a string of stinging military defeats from Nova Scotia to New Jersey at the hands of the Red Coats. Morale was running low for the Continental Army and without a dramatic victory, many fighters would have simply left the Army. As General Washington wrote to his brother on December 18th of that year, “If every nerve is not strained…., I think that the game is pretty near up”. The flame of freedom was at the brink of extinction.

It is with that backdrop General Washington issued the countersign, “Victory or death” to his men. On Christmas Day in 1776, General Washington took 2400 Continentals, many of them with their feet wrapped in rags as they had no shoes, across the semi-frozen Delaware on a cold, dark winter’s night under the cover of a freezing storm to attack a Hessian force in the Battle of Trenton. The day after Christmas, Washington won what turned out to be the most critical and dramatic victory in the Revolutionary War, defeating the Hessians. Washington lost two men but captured or killed 918 Hessians.

That pivotal move on Christmas day led to a series of successes in New Jersey for the next three months. One significant patriot victory during that time was the Battle of Princeton where a young 21-year old Alexander Hamilton (of King’s College, now Columbia University) fired cannons at British troops blockaded in Nassau Hall, the main building of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, where his application was rejected three years before. Over the next few weeks, the British were chased out of New Jersey. As history would have it, that Christmas Day changed the fortunes in our battle against the Red Coats.

One final point: On America’s first free Christmas Day in 1776, the country faced a highly uncertain future. While this fledgling nation had declared independence half a year before, the British hadn’t given up, but neither had General George Washington and the Continental Army. Then as now, dire as things may seem, we are still the greatest country in history. Then as now, when America has set its mind to it, it has overcome obstacles and delivered results.

There is no better example of this determination than the COVID vaccine. A vaccine usually takes more than 10 years to develop (Source: World Economic Forum). Yet, we are the nation that removed hurdles to deploy two vaccines with over 94% efficacy in less than nine months. While the virus originated in China, the vaccines originated in America in what will be the playbook for the greatest public-private partnership in world history. I believe in America and the American spirit.

America, the nation and the people, will always rise and shine. Brighter days are just around the corner, Merry Christmas to you and your family.