John Adams (so far in my reading) is one of my favorite presidents.
John Adams was our first Vice President under George Washington.
John Adams was our second President.
John Adams was the only Founding Father who never owned a slave. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were all slave owners.
John Adams was the first president to live in the President’s House. (It wasn’t called the White House until 1901 when Teddy Roosevelt gave it that name).
The day after he moved in, early that morning, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, who was still in the Boston area. In that letter, he wrote two lines of a prayer that have become immortal.
FDR so admired those sentences, he had them engraved into the wooden mantelpiece in the State Dining Room. Later, President Kennedy made them more permanent when he had them engraved in a marble mantelpiece.
What were those words?
I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house,
and all that shall hereafter inhabit it.
May none but honest and wise men
ever rule under this roof.
That is still a very good prayer and a very high standard. Although someday, I am quite sure and hopeful, that it will be an honest and wise WOMAN who will be the president living under this roof.
This is the kind of executive leadership we need: honest and wise. That is the kind of leadership that will be blessed and be a blessing.
I am greatly indebted to an essay on this in The American Spirit by David McCullough.
Here is the Presidential Dining Room where you can see the mantel.
And here is the prayer inscribed on the mantelpiece.