For roughly 100 years, George Washington has rallied behind our beloved mascot of the Colonials. Now hundreds of students want to replace the mascot as “offensive” due to its perceived connection to colonization and . . . systemic oppression.” Instead, they want to adopt the Hippo that is a favorite stop at 21st and H St. However, wouldn’t that make us the “Hippocrites”?
The petition reads. “The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.”
It is nothing of the kind. The Colonials reflect our history as one of the oldest universities in the country founded at the direction of George Washington. Washington called for the establishment of a national university and left funds for our charter in in his last will and testament. President James Monroe approved the charter in 1821. It was meant to be a new university that reflected a new nation. This country was founded by colonials who forged a new vision for democratic process and individual freedoms.
By contrast, the Hippo (or Riverhorse) is a beloved but relatively recent addition. Indeed, it was something of a joke by former George Washington University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in 1996 when he presented the bronze statue as a gift to the University’s Class of 2000. A plaque was placed on the base:
- Legend has it that the Potomac was once home to these wondrous beasts.George & Martha Washington are even said to have watched them cavort in the river shallows from the porch of their beloved Mount Vernon on summer evenings.
- Credited with enhancing the fertility of the plantation, the Washingtons believed
- the hippopatamus brought them good luck & children on the estate often attempted
- to lure the creatures close enough to the shore to touch a nose for good luck.
- So, too, may generations of students of the George Washington University.
- Art for wisdom,
- Science for joy,
- Politics for beauty,
- And a Hippo for hope.
- The George Washington University Class of 2000
- August 28, 1996
Former Hatchet reporter Andrew Hesbacher, along with Rachel Yakobashvili and Emma Krasnopoler started the campaign. Hesbacher is quoted as saying “Colonialist, terrorist, murderer. In a lot of places that’s what colonials mean to people.” Of course, that is the value of learning about the true meaning of terms. The thirteen colonies were the seedlings that grew into a new Republic. This school reflects those founding members of our nation.