Founding Father brings history to life

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Ella Robinson of Jasper, 4, left, showed George Washington presenter David Wolfe of Owensboro, Ky., her backpack and together they named all of the Disney princesses on it after Wolfe’s presentation at the Ferdinand Branch Library on Wednesday.


FERDINAND — With political unrest dominating news headlines nationwide shortly before Presidents Day, children and adults alike lent their ears to an old commander in chief Wednesday night at the Ferdinand Branch Library.

It was there that Founding Father George Washington shared stories about his life and debunked some of the tricky myths surrounding his legacy in a presentation that visitors said engaged the audience in ways that books and documentaries do not.

Washington — portrayed by historical actor David Wolfe of Owensboro, Ky. — guided the crowd through hand motions as they rowed boats across an imaginary Delaware River. He whimsically aimed pretend muskets in reenactments of Revolutionary War battles. He even did a little dancing — one of his favorite pastimes.

Wolfe gave a talk about the life of George Washington at the Ferdinand Library on Wednesday.

“It’s kind of like bringing history alive,” Wolfe said. “I love that. I love interacting.”

About 30 people attended the hour-long presentation, which featured an ongoing dialogue between Wolfe and the crowd and a question-and-answer session after its conclusion.

Ferdinand children’s librarian Kristie Birchler agreed that the performance was a successful learning experience for the youngsters because of its interactivity.

But Wolfe, 45, also stressed the importance of literature throughout his presentation.

“Reading is so essential, so important,” he said to the kids. “With the powerful tool of reading, you could be the next president.”

He also used the platform to connect parts of history to modern problems the kids might face. He encouraged kids to stand up to bullies, for example, like colonialists did to the British.

“Bullying is horrible,” he said during the presentation. “If anybody ever tells you — like England told us — that you’re nobody, you tell them they’re wrong. Never let anybody put you down. You all are a star of tomorrow.”

Wolfe didn’t shy away from some of the more mythical parts of Washington’s life, either. Staying true to his persona, he could not tell a lie.

Was Washington’s snow white hair fake? Nope, it was real. What about the wooden teeth? Not so much — Washington’s various dentures were actually composed of human and animal teeth, ivory and several types of alloys. The story about him cutting down a cherry tree? Didn’t happen.

“(Author Parson Weems) fabricated the story about the cherry tree because he wanted (Washington) to look bigger than (he) already was,” Wolfe said. “To be almost like a giant.”

The library’s event marked the second-straight year that Wolfe brought a president to the library. Last year, he performed as Abraham Lincoln.

Wolfe showed Erica Robinson of Jasper and her daughter Ella, 4, how to dance during his talk at the Ferdinand Library on Wednesday.

Birchler said she would like to have him return sometime in the future to portray Benjamin Franklin, another act in his arsenal.

“I think the kids liked it,” she said. “I was impressed with how much some of them already knew. I really like how he interacted with them, and I think most of them enjoyed it.”

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