September 19, 1796:
Friends and Fellow Citizens:
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made…
So begins George Washington’s “farewell address” to the new Republic. He goes on to urge Americans to avoid “excessive political party spirit” and “geographical distinctions.” Thank goodness we have mastered these since President Washington left office...
Seriously, on this President’s Day I am contemplating the humility of George Washington. Some historians have argued that he could have been King. Perhaps, perhaps not.
What is worth noting, what is even worth celebrating, however, is that George Washington DID step down.
This remarkable occurrence led to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and on and on and on. (If you haven’t read a good book about these two you are simply missing out!)
The lesson for us:
To be someone worth following, you need to remember that you are not invincible. At some point down the road, someone will replace you. So, set them up for success. And always remember that If George Washington was replaceable, so are you!
Thank God for a Republic that models self-restraint.
May our organizations do the same.
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