Long ago, a statesman wrote about proper etiquette and behavior. He lived according to his suggestions and became an important figure. His life’s work, words and example made him a leader for the ages.
Today, a successful businessman has built an empire. He speaks often of his successes. He receives much attention and seeks higher power, and that attention brings with it more wealth.
The statesman wrote, “A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities of wit, much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.”
The businessman says, “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich,” and “I’m intelligent. Some would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.” Recently, he touted again, “I am a really smart guy.” And, “I’m really rich.”
The statesman wrote, “Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.”
The businessman says, “There is something crazy, hot, a phenomenon out there about me, but I’m not sure I can define it and I’m not sure I want to.” Also, “I can’t help it that I’m a celebrity. What am I going to do, hide under a stone?”
The statesman wrote, “Use no reproachful language against anyone; neither curse nor revile,” and “Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.”
The businessman publicly calls people, “disgusting,” “a slob,” “a terrible person,” “grotesque,” “a dog,” “a total loser,” “a bimbo,” “a dummy,” “a stiff.”
The statesman wrote, “Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature; and in all cases of passion admit reason to govern.”
The businessman says, “For many years I’ve said that if someone screws you, screw them back. When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can.”
The businessman? You might have guessed it: Donald Trump.
The statesman? A 14-year-old George Washington.
Over 200 years have come and gone since Washington wrote these maxims. It is incredible that a giant as great as Washington was the epitome of these qualities — even his enemies recognized it.
And it is deplorable that the level of public discourse of some of our presidential candidates and other leaders has fallen so far off of this course.
Modesty. Reason. Humility. Kindness. Politeness. Respect. These qualities do not go out of style — nor should we let them — regardless of how some in positions of status may talk or act publicly.
Is it wrong to hold our current leaders to the pedestal of George Washington, or to expect the same type of civility and decency written about so eloquently by him?
I don’t think so.
Sean Coletti is an attorney at Hopkins Roden in Idaho Falls and serves on the Ammon City Council.