A week from tomorrow, Idaho’s constitutional officers will take the oath of office on the steps of our Capitol. It may seem like a small thing, almost an afterthought. In fact, we tend to take this transition for granted because that’s how it’s always been.
But what if it wasn’t?
What if every election tested our American ideal of a peaceful transition between officeholders?
Sounds crazy, right? After all, we’ve been around for almost 250 years. Even our most contentious presidential elections still resulted in the winner taking office at the appropriate time.
The reality for many around the world is that this small thing is a very big deal. We can thank, in large part, George Washington for making it our reality.
The Reluctant President
Washington never wanted to be president. He served two terms and could easily have served many more. The Constitution said nothing about term limits, and Washington’s popularity meant the choice was his to make. And so he did, noting in his farewell address that “while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.”
He went on to speak of issues at home and abroad, and near the end, Washington included something that I think comes to mind for most people in public office:
“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.” I encourage you to read the full address. It’s a reminder that while we’re not a perfect people, there’s every reason to continue our pursuit of “a more perfect Union.”President George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
I encourage you to read the full address. It’s a reminder that while we’re not a perfect people, there’s every reason to continue our pursuit of “a more perfect Union.” What we do next week on the steps of our Capitol supports that pursuit.