President’s Day Has Lost Significance
- 14 February 2010 by Author 0 Comments
President’s Day Has Lost Significance
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 02/14/10
It is with some misgivings that I approach the third Monday of February each year. The day used to have great significance. But through the years, the day we celebrate as President’s Day has become less and less significant to our national psyche and more and more successful as a day of retail bargains. I don’t lament the latter, but the loss of the significance of the day as a celebration of George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays is troublesome.
During the last full year of George Washington’s presidency, congress decided to honor him with a national day of recognition. Throughout the 19th century and for most of the 20th, the nation honored our first president, acknowledging his integral role in the founding of the United States of America. His significance in leadership leading to the Declaration of Independence; his success on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War; his deep sense of morality which led him to decline a kingship in the colonies; his leadership through the first eight years of the republic, have become lost on several generations, even to the point of rewriting history textbooks mitigating his role in the founding of the nation. His life contributions were recognized as a national holiday until 1968.
Another amazing president who devoted his life to the preservation of the republic, was born in February. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, appeared on calendars from the year of his death in 1865 until the 1960s when acknowledgment of his birth was merged with that of Washington’s. His dedication to the preservation of the republic as a union of states, and his role in abolishing the tarnishing and immoral practice of slavery are experiencing the same historical revisionism Washington’s legacy is. Merging the two birthdays into one national holiday has eviscerated the significance of the day, and has added to the diminution of reverence, honor, and respect owed both of them.
To further dilute the significance of the day, the placement of the apostrophe has become almost indistinguishable, though the meaning is clear. The placement of the apostrophe like this, President’s Day, implies that it’s a day that belongs to one president, which would presumably be Washington, since he predated Lincoln. The placement of the apostrophe like this, Presidents’ Day, implies that it’s a day that belongs to many presidents. Even Richard Nixon, in his first President’s Day proclamation following passage of the “Long Weekend Act,” declared that the day should be used to celebrate all past presidents, not just Washington and Lincoln. That’s a little disconcerting.
If President’s Day celebrates all past presidents, we have only two national holidays celebrating births, and only one of those is American born. One celebrates the birth of Christ, while the other celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. Acknowledgment of Kings’ significant role in continuing the movement started by Lincoln is appropriate, but should not, in my humble opinion, take precedence over the contributions of Washington and Lincoln.
This plays well into the hands of those who engage in the revision of history, who rather than articulating the stupendous accomplishments of those who have preceded us, within their historical context, rather look at historical figures through the “enlightened” and politically correct prism of the contemporary perspective. Since the 1960s. textbook publishers have scrambled to rewrite American history in such a way as to make more space for specific demographics which don’t include deceased white men, like Washington, Lincoln, and Christopher Columbus. These have become the personas non grata of politically correct historians. The trend has also not been kind to the role Christianity and Christian values have contributed to making America the nation it is today. Author Frances FitzGerald has referred to this historical revisionism as “the most dramatic rewriting of history ever to take place.”
A dear friend of mine who teaches high school history told me, “I remember a textbook we had which (I’m not kidding) gave a whole page to some 16 year old girl in the Revolution (I have forgotten her deeds) and only one paragraph on Washington (including as general!).”
As goes our history, so goes our national observances. As Peter Roff in U.S. News said this week, “Washington’s birthday has been transformed into something almost unrecognizable while Lincoln’s birthday, which is also worthy of observance, has for all practical purposes ceased to exist.”
These men have done so much not just for the creation, and molding of a nation based on freedom and equality, but laid the very foundations for the quality of life we enjoy here in these United States. With the continued diminution of their contributions being played out on the stage of political correctness, the responsibility is ours as parents and grandparents to teach and inform our posterity of their contributions. Those values they espoused, promulgated, fought for, and defended, should not be lost on the next generation of Americans.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.