Monday, February 20, 2012 at 6:31 AM
One can be forgiven the impression that “Presidents’ Day” is just another jingoistic inducement for Americans to go shopping. Whereas, in fact:
Washington’s Birthday (officially February 22) is a federal holiday observed the third Monday of February to honor George Washington, the first President of the United States. This date is commonly called Presidents’ Day and many groups honor the legacy of past presidents on this date.
(whitehouse.gov, List of official holidays)
But since this holiday was first observed in 1885, it’s arguable that the holiday was really meant to honor Abraham Lincoln, the man who “preserved the union through its darkest hour:” the American Civil War. (Lingering sympathy and regret over his assassination at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865 probably inspired the honor.)
Since then, however, Americans have considered no other president sufficiently worthy; notwithstanding that they have sculpted the faces of two of them (namely, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt) into Mount Rushmore along with those of Washington and Lincoln.
(Indeed, it’s also a testament to the extraordinary character and accomplishments of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., that he’s the only other American to have a federal holiday – the third Monday in January – declared in his name.)
At any rate, on January 1, 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which formally named the third Monday in February Presidents’ Day to honor all presidents.
NOTE: My choice of presidents to grace Mount Rushmore II: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald W. Reagan. Yours?