Founding Fathers Blog

President’s Day

February 7th, 2012

I was asked to give a presentatio about our Founding Fathers to an advanced placement Senior High School Government class just a few years ago. It was only a couple of weeks before their school calendar showed a vacation day called Presidents Day.

So I asked the class “What is Presidents Day all about?”

The most common response from the students was “just another reason to have a holiday–a three day weekend.” When I persisted in wanting to know which President to honor the most common response was “it doesn’t matter. Choose your favorite President, or honor all of them.” These are honor students now.

“Do you mean it could be President Garfield, or Truman, or Carter?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” they replied, almost in unison.

When I told them of the reason for Presidents Day they were unaware and a little surprised. I told them when I was in high school we honored President Abraham Lincoln on his birthday, which is February 12–two days prior to Valentine’s Day. And then we honored President George Washington on his birthday which is February 22.

These two Presidents were considered by most historians to be our two greatest presidents, I explained. When I asked them why, they came up with the answer that one was our first President who valiantly fought the Revolutionary War. The other won the Civil War which kept the Union together.

I asked the class: “could there be any other reason to validate their greatness?” With some coaching, it became apparent that their greatness also was because of their character.

Character is defined as “the complex of mental and ethical traits marking a person; moral excellence.”  Abraham Lincoln is often referred to as “Honest Abe,” and George Washington is remembered for his words: “I cannot tell a lie.” They were honest. To be honest is to be free of deception, truthful, genuine and marked by integrity.

So we decided in that class that honesty in our leaders is a desirable quality of character. We have had some presidents who fell a little bit short of that character trait. For example, Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon and Bill “it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is” Clinton. Both of them did some good things as President. However, both left stains on the office of president.

It seemed to us that Presidents of this Country should be good examples of great character and honesty. It amazes me that some voters today seem to be of the opinion that character doesn’t really matter as long as they get the job done. Look what’s happened to our Country with that attitude.

Anyway, several years ago it was determined that we as a Nation, needed a day to celebrate civil rights–not “the Bill of Rights”–but civil rights. So Martin Luther King’s birthday in January was chosen as our “Civil Rights Day.”

Well, we didn’t have any extra days to take off from work, so it was decided to join Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays into one commemoration and call it Presidents Day. So you see, Presidents Day was intented to continue to honor Abe Lincoln and George Washington. But todays generation doesn’t really know that.

Personally, I believe we should make Civil Rights day an honorary day, but not a paid holiday. We should instead continue to honor the character and the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. We truly need something to remind us that character is important and honesty is to be expected in a national leader. Remembering the characters of these two Presidents would go a long way in that regard.

I think we should put those two Presidents back into their own birthdays, separate from a Presidents Day. Let them each have their own birthday honored again. Honestly!

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