Leadership by example

From an analysis of preliminary Iraqi election results a month ago:

Many democracies, especially those that have been given their impetus by outside power, hold successful elections once or twice, then have their weak institutions perverted by “strong men” — by which is meant leaders that come to power legitimately then refuse to return it, either doing away with the institutions and practices of representative government or turning them into formulaic but meaningless (think East German elections) hypocricy [sic] that fool no one, least of all their own citizens.

When one considers mistakes of other countries, it makes George Washington‘s example all the more remarkable. Washington took the oath of office 221 years ago today to become the first President of the United States; approximately eight years later he gracefully left office, enabling a smooth and peaceful transfer of power to John Adams. This was not the first time he had set aside power for the good of all: he did likewise years before upon completion of the Revolutionary War, leaving public life rather than remain commander-in-chief or choose another position. (Contrary to popular belief, Washington did not decline a kingship. Moreover, that such an offer could have been credible is dubious given the sentiments in contemporary sources such as The Federalist Papers.)

If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.

King George III, upon hearing that Washington planned to “return to his farm” after winning the Revolutionary War

Happy First Inauguration, Mr. President.