Know Your History: The Greatness of George Washington

I suppose everyone knows that George Washington was a great man. But I wonder if people know why he was a great man. I’m sure some would say that he must be great in order to have a nation’s capital, a state, many towns, and umpteen schools using the famous moniker. Among the many reasons that one may consider George Washington a great man in American history, there are three reasons, in my estimation, that truly makes him stand apart. These three reasons also highlight, I believe, some traits which are sorely lacking in our modern world.

The Greatness of GW #1: Meekness

As the American Revolution came to a close, the victorious general did not indulge in the spoils of power, prestige, and material items that so many revolutionaries end up enjoying. As the winning general, he had a grateful nation at his fingertips, which would have bestowed on him every and any honor he could have asked for, but, instead, he retired from the military and from public life. He had accomplished his goal, thereby returning to his Virginian estate of Mount Vernon to live out the rest of his days. He willingly gave up power for the good of others. How rare, indeed.

The Greatness of GW #2: Duty for Country

As the founding fathers battled with the dreadfully inadequate Articles of Confederation which nearly tore the young nation apart, George Washington was once again summoned to help forge a new constitution, and so he came out of retirement to preside over the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The procedures of government which came forth in that remarkable new document called for a leader to preside over the nation, a new President, who would be its chief executive. There was little secret whom everyone wanted that to be: George Washington. Once again, he stepped forward when the country needed him, leading the new republic under the new constitution for its first 8 years of existence.

The Greatness of GW #3: Setting Examples for the Following Generations

Washington could have been president for as long as he wanted, but with remarkable foresight and wisdom, he decided to leave office after 2 terms, setting an example and precedent which no president dared not follow until Franklin Roosevelt ran for a third term in 1940. Washington knew that the country would have to learn to carry on without him, and when he saw it was capable of doing so, he stepped down.

These three lessons could go a long way in our “go to the top”, self-absorbed world. If we all could model these three traits, just think what it could mean for our world.

1. Meekness. Be willing to give up control when necessary.

2. Duty for Country: Be willing to step in and help when needed.

3. Set an example: Show the next generation what it means to act honorably.

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