Washington's Birthday

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Or is it Presidents’ Day ? 

Contributor: Jim Kearney Updated 2/13/2019

Isn’t it really called Presidents’ Day?
It’s to celebrate both the Lincoln and Washington - right?
Maybe it’s meant to celebrate all current and past presidents?

The answer to those questions seem to be both yes and no; depending on who you ask or where you are when you ask the questions. Which continues, in my mind. the dumbing down of our exceptional and sometimes poignant history!

There is only one right answer when it comes to the actual legal name of the holiday celebrated every year on the third Monday of February.  It is named, codified in the list of all National Holidays by Congress as Washington’s Birthday.

Washington's Birthday became a legal holiday on January 31, 1879 when Congress added February 22nd to the list of holidays to be observed by federal employees in Title 5 U.S. Code § 6103.

Washington’s Birthday had been celebrated for many years prior to it becoming a Federal Holiday.

The only change to this and other National Holidays occurred in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that was passed by Congress in 1968 and went into effect on January 1st 1971. That established the three day weekend most of us enjoy today. 

So what’s all this talk about Lincoln or all the other presidents being added the day? Well, a lot of time has passed since Washington’s administration but not that long since 1971. But from then to today the second guessers have seemed to arrive.  Many municipalities, cities and states have officially proclaimed the third Monday in February Presidents’ Day.

They are saying it wasn’t done right. It should have said ALL presidents. But seemingly not for the same reason in every instance. Some say that just Lincoln should be added to the holiday because, now get this, not because he was an equally great president but because his birthday falls in the same month! 

We could change the holiday to all presidents. We could but is that a good idea? Isn’t that like,  “everyone gets a trophy “? Not all our presidents where great. Some were downright disastrous. These days, especially, there is no loss of opinion as which ones fell or fall into that category. That’s why we generally rely on history and what it has to say once all the social and political emotion is removed from the times and the person.

Lincoln was, without a doubt one of our great presidents and we do celebrate his birthday. It is just not a Federal Holiday. This brings up my final thought on this subject.

We have over the course of our history and events proclaimed  those whose presidential actions and sacrifice to this country rose above others in a significant way.  Lincoln was one early example, so much so, we built an amazing memorial in his honor. Scores of buildings, bridges, highways and more are named after him.

George Washington was our first president and is historically  referred to as the, “Father of our Country”.  That distinction can never be repeated. I think that everyone involved was thinking that way when they made Washington’s Birthdays a National Holiday.

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