Washington’s Birthday / President’s Day

Happy President’s Day/ Washington’s Birthday. According to Wikipedia the designation “President’s Day” is more of an advertising thing that started in the 80s. Washington’s Birthday is Feb. 22, but this day at least started as a commemoration of his birthday.

I’ve always respected Washington and admired what he did, but his Presidency never had quite the emotional appeal to me as some others. I think it’s because his time in history seems so far removed as to be an abstraction for me — moreso than even, say, Lincoln. Maybe it’s the imagery with the powdered wigs and whatnot.

Be that as it may, Frank Herbert wrote in “Dune” that “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” With Washington we are fortunate that he was mindful of the balances and, while I’m sure we could quibble with this or that, he did a fine job of it.


  1. says

    When I was a lad, during the second Cleveland administration, both Washington’s and Lincoln’s (Feb.12) birthdays were celebrated, which, combined with the quirk of the short calendar and Valentine’s Day meant we spent twenty days every school year cutting hearts or silhouettes out of construction paper. The two were combined in the 80s so the Federal vacation calendar could make room for M. L. King. And the resulting President’s Day gave pride of place to the slaveholding President. Sort of a 1/3 Compromise.

    My dim recollection is that Washington’s birthday was a big day for Screaming Markdowns on Everything mostly as an East coast affair, until it travelled westward with the babbling idiot box in the 60s. But don’t take my word for it. Washington, the man, meanwhile, suffers from being carved in alabaster, as do most of the Founders, unless they’re completely forgotten (James Wilson most unfairly), I guess because we had to choose between seeing the Revolution as a Divine Message from our Inerrant Creator and a protracted war over a tax on soft drinks. At any rate, Washington is now completely overrated as a military man, and sadly underrated as a politician and political thinker. Hell of a furniture salesman, though.

  2. Rick says

    An additional factor is that Washington was actually born on February 11. During Washington’s lifetime, however, the British Empire changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar pushed everything forward 11 days. February 22 of the new calendar corresponded to February 11 of the old.

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