BEND, Ore. – A quote about respect for military veterans that had been attributed to George Washington and displayed prominently at the Deschutes County Courthouse has a new credit: "Unknown."
Although politicians, veterans and others have often attributed the quote to the first president, nobody has been able to document when and where he is supposed to have used the words, Washington scholar Edward Lengel of the University of Virginia told The Bulletin newspaper.
The monument has been in place since 2005. It reads, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Local veterans proposed using the quote and agreed to change the attribution, said the county's property and facilities director, Susan Ross.
At the time the monument went up, Ross said, a quick Google search turned up no reason to think the quote wasn't from Washington.
"A quote that's been around for a very long time, you just assume that it's a good quote," she said.
Ross told the Bulletin this week (http://bit.ly/1y4jGjA ) that the $700 repair was cheaper than the $4,000 estimated cost of replacing the quote with a new one.
Lengel said in an email last fall that the quote, attributed to Washington, has appeared in books, the Congressional Record and the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain. He said the origin of the passage isn't clear, nor is it clear how it came to be attributed to Washington.
He said that attribution is different from stories about Washington, such the one about cutting down a cherry tree as a youngster.
"Yarn-spinning is part of the human condition," he wrote. "But while I have no problem with storytelling, I do not think that the use of unproven 'facts' in political debate or in public forums is ever innocuous."
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com