Though respected as a great general in the Revolutionary War, Washington was very self-conscious about his lack of education. Unlike the other colonists with whom he served in the Continental Congress, Washington never attended college. In fact, Washington had only an elementary school education. He did, however, attend dancing school at age fifteen. His dancing skills certainly came in handy when he became the first President of the United States and had many parties to attend.
Dancing was one of the few parts of formal gatherings that he enjoyed. He hated small talk and did not have a strong public speaking voice. He also didn’t like people to stand too close to him, partly because he felt that his false teeth made his face look swollen. Washington always took great pains to control his faults, particularly his temper. His reputation was so important to him that even as a young man he copied out rules of etiquette such as “sit not when others stand; speak not when you should hold your peace.”
Although some of his successors relished the challenges of the office, Washington was a reluctant president. Despite his personal popularity and the large number of people who turned out to greet him on his journey from Virginia to New York, the idea of being president made Washington cringe. Before he was inaugurated, Washington said he felt like “a culprit who is going to his place of execution.”
As president, Washington invented the presidential cabinet, filling it with men he felt had the best qualifications rather than picking personal friends or allies. He called his cabinet members, which included Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, his “first characters.” Though he was the only president who never lived in the White House, Washington chose the site and the architect for the house. Before he died, Washington toured the nearly completed mansion.