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President’s Day

February 21, 2011

Presidents’ Day, officially Washington’s Birthday, in the United States, holiday (third Monday in February) popularly recognized as honouring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The day is sometimes understood as a celebration of the birthdays and lives of all U.S. presidents.

Congress rejected the name change

The origin of Presidents’ Day lies in the 1880s, when the birthday of Washington—commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the first president of the United States—was first celebrated as a federal holiday. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays. The change was designed to schedule certain holidays so that workers had a number of long weekends throughout the year, but it has been opposed by those who believe that those holidays should be celebrated on the dates they actually commemorate. During debate on the bill, it was proposed that Washington’s Birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day to honour the birthdays of both Washington (February 22) and Lincoln (February 12); although Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated in many states, it was never an official federal holiday. Following much discussion, Congress rejected the name change. After the bill went into effect in 1971, however, Presidents’ Day became the commonly accepted name, due in part to retailers’ use of that name to promote sales and the holiday’s proximity to Lincoln’s birthday. Presidents’ Day is usually marked by public ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.

“Presidents’ Day.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.

George Washington, oil painting by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1796; in the White House. [Credit: Scala/Art Resource, New York]

All that said, and with great difference to President Washington, I am going to observe the occasion to bring you some great quotations from our presidents and Founding Fathers.  Most of all, I hope my children read this and have a greater understanding for this Great Experiment of Democracy that is us.

First to set the tone, let us recite my favorite piece of legislation, Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression – of the Constitution for the United Stated of America, ratified December 15, 1791:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, stay tuned for quotes that will cause you to pause and think about this Nation.  I also highly recommend The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States by Rev. Benjamin F. Morris in 1864 for some enlightening reading to see what our Nations’s capital was like 150 years ago…

(to be continued…)

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