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One Thing to Remember This President's Day
If you walk through the Capitol Rotunda and look up, you will see “The Apotheosis of Washington.” This beautiful work of art graces the dome 180 feet above the rotunda floor and covers 4,664 square feet. It depicts George Washington ascending into the clouds, surrounded by the goddesses of Victory and Liberty and 13 maidens representing the 13 colonies.

While it’s a stunning piece of art with great historical significance, I can’t help but imagine George Washington chuckling a bit if he saw it. Because at the end of the day, Washington -- the first U.S. president and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War -- was a humble man. He was keenly aware of the weight of his responsibilities, but never seemed to take himself too seriously. His life was service-oriented. 

There’s a story I like that illustrates how Washington was always acting on behalf of others. One day, he was riding by a group of soldiers as they were struggling to raise a beam while building some structures during the Revolutionary War. The corporal in charge was shouting encouragement, but still the troops struggled to hoist the beam high enough. After watching quietly for moment, George Washington asked the corporal why he did not help his men. The man snapped back: “Do you realize I am the corporal, sir?” I imagine Washington smiling as he responded politely, “I beg your pardon, Mr. Corporal, I did,” before dismounting and adding his strength to raise the beam.

Washington understood what few in his namesake city today seem to grasp: leaders are here to serve. I witnessed this truth firsthand during my service in Iraq and in the U.S. Army Reserves. The greatest leaders are the ones who keep their egos in check and who put the needs of the troops they lead above their own.

I believe that type of servant-leadership is a critical linchpin to the government framework that those early American patriots envisioned. The founders structured our system of government so that leaders would be democratically elected from among the people, to represent the people. Unlike England at the time, American government officials would not be pre-selected by their royal bloodlines or distinguished lineages. Instead, they would be ordinary citizens: small business owners, soldiers, farmers, preachers, and teachers, who put aside their careers for public service. That’s why when young people come up to me and tell me they want to serve in Congress, I always reply, “That’s wonderful, but do something else first.”

Most importantly, our founders carefully structured our democratic republic so that ultimate responsibility rested on the shoulders of the people themselves. Elected officials would serve the will of the people – not the other way around. Abraham Lincoln called it, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

It may seem like a basic truth, but it is one that bears repeating. Personally, it’s a big part of why I serve in Congress. Having spent most of my life serving as a doctor, small business owner, and combat surgeon in Iraq, I felt called to continue that service in the U.S. House of Representatives in order to bring the voices of my neighbors, small business owners, and fellow veterans and physicians, to the halls of Congress. Because, at the end of the day, the voices of every day Americans are the ones that matter most.

That’s why getting your feedback is such a big priority of mine. Whether it’s through meetings, emails, weekly polls, telephone town halls, or the hundreds of calls my offices receive every day, I appreciate everyone who takes time to share their opinion with me. Because your voices matter. As another great American president, Ronald Reagan, once said, “’We the People are the driver – the Government is the car.”

After Washington died, President’s Day was established as a perennial remembrance of his life and leadership. Over the years, the holiday has expanded to honor all past American presidents. It’s a day when we reflect on all the individuals who served as leaders of the free world and defenders of our great republic, and who have left indelible marks on our national history. As we commemorate President’s Day, though, let us not forget the truth that George Washington’s example reminds us of: that our leaders are here to serve. The greatest voice shaping our nation over the course of its 238-year history has always been – and must always be – the voice of the American people.

In Your Service,

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