Portrait of George Washington

George Washington could have been President for life yet chose not to run beyond two terms in office, helping to ensure a regular and orderly transfer of executive power. This set a precedent until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to a third term in 1940 and a fourth term in 1944.

Washington’s farewell address, written with the help of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, encouraged his fellow citizens to "properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness," reminded them that “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it,” admonished them to “cherish public credit” while “avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt” and asked them to “observe good faith and justice towards all nations.” Over two centuries later, Washington’s remarks remain a landmark lesson in patriotic civic responsibility.

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