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GEORGE WASHINGTON, HEDGEHOG EXTRAORDINAIRE

George Washington, a hedgehog?


You bet.


You've heard the old adage, "The fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows One Big Thing." This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, was fleshed out by British philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who once described the different perspectives that political leaders bring to management of world affairs, as the difference between the hedgehog and the fox: The hedgehog knows One Big Thing, and the fox knows many little things.


George Washington was the archetypical hedgehog.  And The One Big Thing he knew, was that democracy resided in the hearts of Americans.  Every time his fellow officers in the Continental Army tried to make him king, he resisted.  In the post-wars, when he lived in retirement on his Mount Vernon plantation, and the new nation was struggling with a myriad of setbacks, there were a number of educated and well-meaning people who called on Washington to step up and declare himself king, and thus be in a position to restore order to the nation.  Again, he wouldn't hear of it.


Only with great reluctance, did he attend the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia.  And again, with great reluctance--after the Constitution was ratified--did he accept his election to the office of president.  As president, he knew that power was not vested in him personally,  but in the office of president. On top of that, he was very concerned with setting a good example for all future presidents to follow.  And he was very respectful of the leadership of elected officers in the House of Representatives, and in the U.S. Senate.  Despite pleas to continue in office, at the end of eight years, he left office and retired to his Mount Vernon planation.


George Washington, hedgehog extraordinaire, was exactly the kind of citizen the Founding Fathers had hoped our experiment in government would elect to office.  Honest, decent, unselfish, and respectful of the rights of his fellow citizens.


George Washington knew, as all great presidents have known, that the most important political office in the nation, is that of private citizen.


- END -     

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