American Elephants

Let’s Ban President’s Day by The Elephant's Child

There was a time when American schoolchildren celebrated two birthdays in February, Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, and  George Washington’s birthday on February 22. They cut log cabins out of construction paper for Abraham Lincoln, and usually an axe and a cherry tree for George Washington which left the kiddies with a rather warped vision of why the two birthdays were important.

So to clarify this historical misinformation, starting in 1971, we celebrated the birthday of the father of our country on the third Monday of February rather than his birthday, so that working people could have a three-day weekend, and since Lincoln’s birthday is also in February, added him to the weekend,  which is celebrated by a golf trip by our current president, a ski-vacation by his wife, and sales at most retail stores.

The cutting down the cherry tree story is apocryphal. George Washington did not want to be president after the long years of war, he wanted to retire to his farm, but the people wanted him, and he strove mightily to be worthy of their choice. He was very conscious that he was setting an example for future presidents, and conscious that the war just ended was a revolt against a monarchy and its overreaching taxes and limits on American liberty. Many were prepared to make Washington a king, but he resisted the pomp and  settled for plain, much to his credit. His restraint and moral stature did much to set the nation on its future path.

Abraham Lincoln’s statesmanship in saving the Union is the greatest challenge faced by a president. And it is a truly American story of a self-made man, indeed rising from a log cabin the highest office of the land and presiding over the bloodiest war in our history, emancipating the slaves and assassination. A tragic war and a tragic president whose intellect and character set an example for the ages and helped to reaffirm America as a free and self-governing nation.

We really need to set aside the two birthdays as a time to learn about our two greatest presidents. Let’s cancel “President’s Day.” There are things more important than three-day weekends.

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