Randy Forbes: President or king?

randy forbesThe year was 1783. After leading the revolution against the British Empire, defeating the most powerful military in the world at the time, General George Washington was perfectly positioned to seize the reins of power and rule the new nation. Perhaps even to become king. Curious, King George III asked what Washington was going to do. He shook his head in disbelief when he was told Washington would return to his farm.

“If he does that,” King George replied, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Reflecting on George Washington’s humility and restraint in leadership, I can’t help but contrast it with what we see in our government today. Front and center on the national stage this past week was the investigation into the IRS’ targeting of non-profit groups based on their political beliefs. Continually making headlines is the scandal with the NSA collecting metadata on the majority of American citizens. Almost everywhere you turn, you can find an example of government overstepping its bounds, abusing authority, and sidestepping accountability.

Contemplating this, I can almost hear the echoes of Washington’s warnings about the “love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart,” which “is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” Although it would have been easy to please the public clamoring for centralized power, Washington understood there was more at stake. Choosing respect for the structures of democracy and freedom over personal political gain, he courageously served the long term best interests of the American people.

What a legacy was left for us when this great man returned to his farm!

Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District in Congress.

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