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February 17th, 2014 6:58 pm
Remembering the Men Behind Presidents Day

Don’t know much about American history?

Blame the federal government.

Back in 1968, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson agreed to move Veterans Day, Memorial Day and George Washington’s birthday to designated Mondays to ensure three-day weekends throughout the year. Since the change would mean that Washington’s birthday (February 22nd) would never be celebrated on the prescribed third Monday of February, the new holiday became known as Presidents Day.

The motivation was primarily economic.

“The three-day weekend was favored by federal workers, private sector labor unions, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and an array of tourist-related industries and trade associations,” writes Carl Cannon. “It was even pro-family, its backers proclaimed. It was a win-win-win.”

The results were predictable. Today, many people don’t know that we celebrate the living on Veterans Day and the fallen on Memorial Day. Others don’t realize that some presidents – like George “Father of His Country” Washington and Abraham “Savior of His Country” Lincoln (born Feb. 12th) – deserve more attention and appreciation this time of year than their Oval Office brethren.

One way to overcome this misconception in the future is to acquaint one’s self with some of the best works on Washington and Lincoln. Ron Chernow and Richard Brookhiser have well regarded biographies on Washington. Harry Jaffa has two outstanding books on Lincoln.

Reading any of these ahead of next year’s edition of Presidents Day will go a long way toward reclaiming part of what makes America exceptional – Her exceptional leaders.

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