At the heart of our Republic is the guarantee of the peaceful transfer of power. Members of Congress are reminded of this every day as we pass through the Capitol Rotunda. There, eight magnificent paintings detail theearliest days of our Republic. Four were painted by John Trumbull, including one depicting the moment in 1793 when George Washington resigned his commission, handing control of the Continental Army back to Congress. Trumbull called this, “one of the highest moral lessons ever given the world.” With this noble act, George Washington established the indispensable example of the peaceful transfer of power in our nation.
Standing on the West Front of the Capitol in 1981, President Ronald Reagan described it this way:
To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.