I remember as a kid, we celebrated this holiday as the Washington and Lincoln Birthdays. Quite a mouthful and a little odd as their birthdays land on different days in February, and the holiday kind of sat on the fence between them.
Ironically, in researching when it became Presidents Day, according to History.com, the change came as a marketing move by retailers to take advantage of a three-day weekend shopping opportunity!
I was quite a history buff in grade school, and I loved studying the list of our leaders. In fact, at one time I could go from 1 to 38 with ease. While my parents never really put me on the spot in company, my Uncle Tommy (whom I really enjoyed due to his gregarious nature) always asked me to recite on demand at family holiday gatherings.
I can no longer recite the presidents in order; I can go from Washington through Van Buren and McKinley through Biden, but the middle causes me some challenges outside of the Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant run.
As I write this missive, my interest to revisit the lineup of leadership in our history is reinvigorated.
The 46 men who’ve held this office have ranged from rascals to heroes. Some fought wars, while others managed economic calamity and boon. This is an exclusive list of people who’ve sat in the big chair and had to make decisions that impacted lives and fortunes.
While it’s easy for any of us to be critical, there is no doubt only a few really understand the pressure.
Over the past decade, we’ve broken the color barrier and now have elevated a woman to the vice-presidency. As we continue to grow, I trust that the diversity of the office will as well.
In the end, we celebrate all the presidents. Our democracy has been sustained along the model of the exemplar of our very first president for whom the original holiday lionized, President George Washington.
It was Washington who left office after two terms, even when he was encouraged to stay. Future presidents followed that example into the 20th century until the 22nd Amendment made it law.
And not to be forgotten, President John Adams may in the end have give us the greatest gift.
After one term, in 1800 Adams and Thomas Jefferson battled for the top job to what amounted to a draw and was decided after 36 election ballots in the House of Representatives.
Can you imagine if there was social media and 24/7 coverage for that?
Adams, though bitterly disappointed, went back home and Jefferson took the presidency. That one action set the tone for a peaceful transition of power that has formed our democracy for 232 years (remember Washington became president in 1789).
On this day that began as a tribute to Washington and later added Lincoln, we now celebrate all Presidents of the United States. And because of them, we get to enjoy a three-day weekend and maybe a little shopping.
Enjoy the day.
Quote of the Week:
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
~ Abraham Lincoln #16
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