OPINION: It’s not Presidents Day; it’s Washington’s Birthday

Zachary Grizzard, Correspondent

Presidents Day, also known as George Washington’s Birthday, is most commonly known as a day that we get out of school or potentially off from work (sorry private sector employees). As history tells us, Presidents Day is a good way to recognize our leaders through time and be appreciative of where we have come as a nation. Many people, however, do not know the reason we celebrate Presidents Day, the original name, or how it even came to be.

Presidents Day can largely be tied back to George Washington’s birthday, which is on February 22. In the 1880’s, a holiday was created and named “Uniform Monday Holiday Act”. This act was designed to help give workers a day off from work. 

In 1879, Rutherford B. Hayes commemorated George Washington by declaring February 22 as Presidents Day. The February 22 holiday lasted almost 100 years until Richard Nixon renamed the holiday after the nation’s first president, George Washington, and changed the day of celebration.

Richard Nixon restructured the holiday for many reasons, the first reason being that February 22 occasionally fell on the weekends. Nixon believed that it should always fall on normal business days so services could close in honor of Presidents Day. Nixon deemed that the third Monday in February should be observed by state and federal employees as “Presidents Day.” The day, according to Nixon, would celebrate Washington’s birthday which fell on February 22 and Abraham Linclon’s birthday which fell on February 12.

Legally, Presidents Day does not appear in the United States Code regarding federally observed holidays. The only holiday listed for the month of February is Washington’s birthday, but the day it is observed was changed in 1970 from February 22 to the third Monday in February.  Though many refer to the holiday colloquially as “Presidents Day”, the legal name is still printed as Washington’s Birthday.

Regardless, we should take the opportunity of free time on Presidents Day to be thankful for the leader we currently have, as well as the leaders we have had. In today’s time though, it can be quite hard to be thankful for someone who has caused a racial divide in our country, and even harder for someone who has passed countless regulations in violation of constitutional amendments.

This is not pointing fingers or singling out any particular leader, but it is definitely something to think about. Nixon wanted to specifically celebrate Lincoln and Washington, but that was still going against what Rutherford B. Hayes had originally created by deeming Washington’s birthday a holiday. 

I believe that we as a country should celebrate the birth of our first president. George Washington created a legacy that cannot be rivaled. Washington created the State of the Union Address, birthed the idea for term limits and he and his wife shaped the role to which all future presidents and their wives would fill. The Washingtons even decided that excessive glory should not be placed on the name of the president. George stated that “Mr. President” would be a simple and respectful salutation.

The Washingtons left a legacy that is still with us as a nation. I think trying to combine honoring other presidents on this day takes away from the respect and honor that should be paid to the Washingtons. So, in protest of Nixon’s decision — Happy Birthday President Washington!

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