By official decree, Presidents’ Day is the first Monday in February. It is generally viewed today as a celebration of all those men (so far) who have served as the nation’s chief executive.
Celebrate? Bah humbug! I say – boring a derisive from another holiday. I hate Presidents’ Day. It fails to even properly celebrate the lives of our Presidents. It has just become another excuse for a national shopping day. In fact, that was the intent.
Presidents’ Day was part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971. It moved the celebration of various holidays to the closest Monday to give workers a three-day weekend AND increase retail sales. Nothing in that Act had anything to do with the purpose of celebration.
You would have to have passed your fiftieth birthday to have lived before there was a Presidents’ Day. It does have a longer history. It replaced the national holiday celebrating the birth of our first President – George Washington. That took place in 1879, when Congress designated Washington’s February 22nd birthday to be America’s fifth national holiday – joining Christmas, New Years Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving.
Abraham Lincoln’s birthday of February 12th was widely celebrated by most states – with obvious exception in the old Democrat southland – but never made a national holiday. Several of the former Confederate states celebrate Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee to this day.
Today there are ten official federal holidays. In addition to the five mentioned above, we now celebrate Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day.
I was among those supporting President Reagan backing a national holiday to celebrate the work of Dr. King – and I have no argument against honoring Christopher Columbus – even tho it is questionable whether he ever actually set foot on what is now America.
But if King and Columbus are worthy of national holidays, certainly Washington deserves a day of his own – and Lincoln, too. To simply homogenize their service among a number of less deserving men is a national disgrace.
In creating Presidents’ Day, we equate Washington and Lincoln with such racist reprobates as Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. We equate them with Presidents who were subjects of impeachments. We equate them with such lackluster or incompetent Presidents as Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Grover Cleveland, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Actually, the original intent was not to celebrate Presidents generally, but as a combined celebration of Washington and Lincoln. Initially, the holiday banners contained the imagery of the two greatest Presidents – but that has faded into history.
If I had my way, I would abolish Presidents’ Day and create two holidays – one for Washington and one for Lincoln. But that is just me.
So, there ‘tis.