On Being Presidential a la George Washington

Mark Goulston
6 min readFeb 16, 2020


by Mark Goulston and Kevin Gregson

In anticipation of President’s Day and the current partisan logjam, hunger for power and lack of grace and graciousness, we might take a lesson from the President we are honoring on Monday, February 17, 2020.

In Washington’s case it was about voluntarily turning over power to another yet to be determined leader rather than fighting to hold onto it.

Friends, And Fellow Citizens

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made…

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.

- G. Washington

United States, 17th September 1796

These words represent a transition of leadership unprecedented in all of human history up to that time. This can be said without American bias. This was the first time a soldier, turned citizen-leader, willingly and voluntarily turned over the power of civilian government to another yet to be determined citizen leader. Known as Washington’s Farewell address, it was not an address at all but an open letter to the then nascent American People.

In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of this transfer of power, some historical context is important. Also, there is…



Mark Goulston

Dr. Goulston is the world's #1 listening coach and author of "Just Listen" which became the top book on listening in the world