The President’s Day Holiday is to honor all our presidents but primarily Washington and Lincoln. Washington’s birthday is February 22, and Lincoln’s fell on February 12.
The 90th Congress created a uniform system of federal Monday holidays and voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February.
The way these two presidents shaped our nation and the world is deserving of this attention from Congress, and their contribution is worthy of our recognition. I urge you to reflect on their legacy of leadership and suggest some evening, fire side reading.
Here are the gems that I learned from Washington and Lincoln.
- Lincoln always worked things out in private before bringing any issue to his cabinet, debate, or other discourse. This shows us that Lincoln applied awareness, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence before they had a name.
- During the Civil War, Lincoln put Army generals in charge who blundered. They were savagely condemned (sound familiar?) by half of our nation for incompetence. Lincoln, however, “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” radiated peace.
- When the mass culture of the North denigrated the people of the South, even Mrs. Lincoln harshly chimed in. President Lincoln replied, “don’t criticize them. They are what we would be in similar circumstances.”
- As Lincoln lay dying, his Secretary of War Stanton said, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men that the world has ever seen.”
- After the War of Independence with Britain, George Washington felt compelled to offer his advice for a new United States that was positioned for greatness. Elated, inspired, and cautious all at the same time, Washington warned of the consequences if America failed to live up to its great promise.
- Washington stressed that the future of the United States depended upon the strength of the Union.
- Washington encouraged a peaceful, friendly, and accepting relationship among all citizens of the United States, regardless of region. The success of the Union required all people “to forget their local prejudices and policies and be willing to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.”
We heard the same encouragement from another great president whom we celebrate today.
Lincoln put the Union above all else. For four years, Lincoln was sickened, heartbroken, weary, and anxious about the bloodshed of war. In 1863, he feared that “the Almighty is against us. I can hardly see a ray of hope.” But Lincoln never wavered, the Union was the supreme cause.
It’s funny how things stay the same as they change. We are reminded once again to rise above petty preoccupations and put energy and enthusiasm toward long-term higher goals. The Union is bipartisan, everyone’s highest interest.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Suggested further reading: