President’s Day is an America holiday honoring the service and contributions of US Presidents. It is officially known as Washington’s Birthday, because it originally commemorated the birthday of George Washington, the First US President. Due to the fact Abraham Lincoln, who was the Sixteenth US President and is considered one of the greatest US Presidents in history, was also born in the month of February, the celebration of George Washington’s contributions to the birth of the US also became the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s contributions to the preservation of the United States. As more and more State governments have officially renamed Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day as part of an effort to honor Lincoln, the holiday has come to encompass the legacies of all US Presidents.
That said, the simple truth is that most Americans do not actually celebrate President’s Day. In fact, few have any real reason to remember President’s Day actually exists. For most, it is simply the reason they have a day off from school or work, if they get the day off. Schools use the holiday, coupled with Valentine’s Day, to discuss the history and impact of Washington and Lincoln, but it is largely a holiday for the political world. Even for those who work in the political industry, President’s Day does not entail much of a celebration. Public officials will make speeches and go through the usual pageantry, but there is little substance to the ceremonies. Given the negative views of public officials, government, and politics in general, President’s Day can easily be seen as a wasted day.
In an age defined by poor governance, it is increasingly difficult to see the contributions of even the greatest US Presidents, and other leaders, as valuable. If President’s Day is viewed as a day to honor past and present US leaders, it is likely few will have reason to celebrate. If President’s Day is viewed as a day to inspire leadership within the United States, however, it will always be a cause worth commemorating. President’s Day is not a holiday the American People will uphold. Public officials and other political leaders are the ones who must give President’s Day meaning. President’s Day must become a day when the practice of leadership is embraced by the political industry and celebrated in the public arena. Unlike Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, which are celebrated with family time, President’s Day must be a holiday that cultivates community togetherness.
What little is done to commemorate President’s Day typically centers on the official contributions of President George. Outside of his duties as a public official, however, George Washington built a legacy of community through his generous and charitable ways. George Washington was a wealthy landowner who built his estate over the course of a lifetime, but he was also a very giving man who gave out of his own pocket. When Washington left Mount Vernon to command the Continental Army, for example, he instructed his groundskeeper to “[l]et the Hospitality of the House, with respect to the poor, be kept up,” he wrote. “Let no one go hungry away….” Even after he left the Presidency, he continued his generosity by entertaining a constant stream of visitors at a considerable financial cost to himself.
Above all, George Washington’s public and personal life was defined by service to others, generosity, and charity. He was not simply a military and political leader. He was a community leader, because he embraced a lifestyle of service, which helped build the national community of the US. As such, the holiday honoring his contributions to the US of America should focus on service. As President, George Washington entertained a great deal, because he felt it was the best way to define his Presidency. President’s Day should be a day of service and outreach for those in the political industry. Recognizing the billions of dollars that circulate throughout the political system, political leaders would be wise to start President’s Day traditions that include public events. Some of these events should feature “community meals” where political leaders gather with their constituents from across the political spectrum to engage in civil discourse and community building.
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