“Never be agitated by more than a decent warmth and offer your sentiments with modest diffidence,” George Washington once advised. “…opinions thus given are listened to with more attention than when delivered in a dictatorial style.” This is worthy advice for any leader. On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, I can’t help wondering what America’s first president would make of its latest.
I just completed Ron Chernow’s exhaustive, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, “Washington: A Life.” Chernow’s account is sympathetic and sometimes hagiographic, but it does not ignore the contradictions of the man, a slave-owning icon of Liberty. George Washington was a man of his time, and today historical figures are judged by contemporary standards. Be that as it may, I have new respect for Washington and his accomplishments. He was a leader of moderation and balance, a dignified, magisterial character who acted in the best interests of his fledgling country, its people, and its democracy. Would that there were such an individual to lead his country now.