5 Highlights of George Washington's Legacy
The Greatest American to Ever Live
George Washington is widely recognized as one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Washington is my “hero” if there was a man to bestow that title upon. I know he was just a man, but what he did, when he did it, the way he did it both professionally and personally - the man was dialed in to a degree that I work to replicate in my life.
His numerous accomplishments and legacy will forever be remembered and honored as they were both well documented in his letters (I highly recommend Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life) as well as deeply felt across the globe as the American Revolution was something that changed the game that was being played by powerful nations forever.
I often speak to life lessons, skills, and introspective topics in this newsletter. Still, I find that there is a place for reflection on those who came before us, and to look at how they carried themselves in this specific piece, I wanted to share my personal passion for history, leadership, and legacy. Many accept today’s politicians as “great leaders”, but their performance is subpar, and it has been so long that we’ve forgotten what a strong leader looks like. George Washington was a strong leader through action, not just the written word.
From his military achievements to his role as the first President of the United States, Washington’s contributions to the nation’s history are invaluable. Out of all his accomplishments, I wanted to recognize the following five, which I’d been thinking about since visiting Mount Vernon (George’s Home) this past Summer.
The first of George Washington’s greatest achievements was his leadership in the American Revolution. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led the ragtag group of colonial troops to victory over the better-trained, more heavily equipped, and for obvious reasons, more confident and powerful British forces. His leadership and determination were instrumental in securing the freedom of the United States and creating an independent nation. He kept the men fighting, and the men found their “why” in doing so, oftentimes with George’s presence as the key thing keeping them from abandoning their posts.
The second achievement of Washington’s legacy was his role in forming the United States Constitution. As a member of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was an adamant supporter of the document and was instrumental in its ratification. Imagine where we’d be today without that text guiding us as a nation. The Constitution has been the foundation of American democracy for centuries and is widely considered one of the most important political documents ever written. There’s a reason treasonous people have attempted to do away with the constitution, but fortunately, enough resistance has protected it from being completely nullified. George knew this and had the foresight to put controls in place from the beginning of the country's formation to set it up for long-term success.
The third achievement of Washington’s legacy was his role in creating the first presidential cabinet. I know this may be a weird one, but how many leaders view themselves as the best at everything and, in that arrogance, become overwhelmed, overworked, and destroy all they were meant to protect? Washington was the first president (obviously) to assemble a cabinet of advisors to help him make decisions and oversee the government. Every president since has used this cabinet structure since Washington, and it has been instrumental in the functioning of the American government. The best leaders surround themselves with the best in their fields to offer counsel; no man wins alone.
The fourth achievement of Washington’s legacy was his leadership in the establishment of the two-party political system. Washington was the first president to be a member of a political party, and his decision to embrace partisan politics served as the foundation for the two-party system that has been the dominant force in American politics for centuries. George knew he had to make it work with both sides of “America”: industrial and farms, money and product, North and South. It wasn’t easy, and we’ve seen the clashes (outright wars) since. Still, he did a great job of navigating the divisive waters early enough for the new government to gain footing to prevent collapse and outright civil war from the onset.
The fifth and final achievement of Washington’s legacy was his stepping away from the Presidency. Washington could have remained in office for life, and there is evidence that suggests one of his biggest fears was dying in office, as he thought it may set a precedence for future Presidents to remain in the position until the end of their days. Washington could have made himself a King; instead, he walked away to return to his farm in Virginia.
These five achievements are what I’ve viewed as Washington’s best moves regarding the legacy of the office and the man himself. George Washington made some of the most important contributions to the nation’s history, and his legacy will forever be remembered and honored. Now, my challenge to you is this, can you live such a life that it inspires those who follow for years to come?
What would it take for you to become a great person others refer to when they’re facing a difficult task?
- Zachary Small
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