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The American story truly starts in the year 458 A.D.– the year that Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus a Roman farmer and a senator, was appointed as a Temporary Dictator to rescue the besieged Roman Army.

Humility Before Honor

Cincinnatus is said to have defeated the assaulting enemy forces in a single day… only to surrender his status as Temporary Dictator and return home to his small farm. “Cincinnatus’ resignation from dictatorship demonstrated his support of allowing the government to run as it was intended—by the people,” according to Britannica.

He chose the sickle instead of the sword, to plow instead of pillage– a choice that echoed down the eons to another great general– our own George Washington.

Bloody Footprints & Impossible Odds

When the American Colonists decided on principle to overthrow British tyranny they appointed George Washington to lead them into battle. But Washington faced impossible odds– British Colonial rule was so powerful that it was said that, “The sun never sets on the British Empire,” because its reach spanned the entire globe.

By contrast, Washington’s soldiers were poorly clad– most of his men didn’t even have uniforms. In the winter his men’s footsteps could be traced in the snow because they didn’t have shoes, and they left bloody footprints behind them.

Most of the Leaders of the American Revolution Lost Everything

Some early American leaders lost their lives, one founding father’s ten children were murdered because of his support for the Revolution, and most gave their fortunes to support America’s young military.

Nevertheless, George Washington’s courage, military leadership, and character held the country together. He thwarted the power of Britain’s tyrannical rule over the Colonies, freeing its citizens and uniting them forever as the United States of America.

But after victory over the British, the country was still young and very vulnerable. The newly minted citizens of the United States elected Washington as their first president. 

Washington: The Greatest General Returns to Being a Gentleman Farmer

But Washington’s greatest moment came at the end of his second term as President. He followed the example of Cincinnatus and returned to his fields at his farm, Mt. Vernon.

I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.

— George Washington

American Presidents to this day follow Washington’s example. They serve no more than eight years in office, and then they return to the fields of their lives. 

Americans are defined by their ingenuity, their independence, their grit–  But the most important, the most prized trait of any American leader is their ability to cede power. 

Over our history, we’ve done that on a global scale: Whether that’s giving the Panama Canal back, defending the Koreans from invading armies, or liberating Columbia from Drug Lords, the US returns power to the people both at home and abroad.

Today, we celebrate George Washington as a second Cinncinatus, we celebrate the fields and the farms that are free because they are tended by men and women who value, “humility before honor.”