Benjamin West kind of matter-of-factly replied to King George he thought Washington would likely go back to his farm.
King George reportedly retorted to West, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world!"
Who would voluntarily give up that much power? Such was rare and today is no exception.
George Washington was so highly regarded for his integrity that a number of power brokers, leaders and citizens supported the idea of making the first president, president for life.
George Washington was anything but vain and he, like great leaders before and after him, understood the one thing above all that will topple the greatest leader is vanity.
Vanity is insanity when it comes to leadership and is every leader's greatest enemy. It has caused the downfall of many because it's shelf life is not long.
Vanity is insanity when it comes to leadership.
Washington did what he set out to do and accomplished that which he had determined. He had determined that his goal was to serve the people and bring stability to the new nation. He had done that and after two terms it was time he reasoned to exit the stage.
Refusing a third term, Washington rebuffed a growing movement to make him president for life. After being re-elected unanimously in the 1792 presidential election, he chose to retire after two terms. He calmly handed over the reins of office and power to his Vice-President, John Adams of the Federalist Party.
In doing this, Washington set the standard for presidents to come and helped stabilize a young nation.
On the other hand, across the ocean, Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, was a military leader. Lauded for his military skills, Bonaparte loved being in power and being in control. He desperately desired to be Emperor for life.
Bonaparte instead was toppled, twice-exiled and it is said that the people of France wanted him to be a leader much in the same way as the new nation's George Washington.
He couldn't do it. Why? He loved power and control way too much and would have never voluntarily, on his own accord, given up the most powerful office in France. Even when it became obvious to the masses that his time was up, vanity told him differently.
The pendulum will swing back in America. It always does in politics. It isn't a matter of if, but when it does, America will once again have to find its true north.
Too many leaders in DC are drunk on power and blinded by vanity. That's a deadly and foretelling combination.
I wonder what George Washington would say today of the nation he so carefully, courageously and wisely led?
When it is all said and done and the smoke clears, one thing is certain - it is going to take a new breed of leader to right this ship and heal this great nation of so great a divide.
A leader who really does put country over self and understands what Washington so clearly understood and modeled - the collective power and uniqueness of America really is by the people and for the people and does not, nor should it ever yield to the vanity of any one leader.
America is in desperate need of a Washington, not a Bonaparte.