This past Wednesday, Feb. 12, was the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president. It didn’t get much publicity. I saw a one-sentence mention of it in The Tribune’s “Flashback” column.
Maybe people figured the recent movie “Lincoln” gave him enough publicity. But, I don’t think so. He’s my favorite president. I think he should have his own federal holiday.
What got me thinking of the need for a federal Lincoln’s Day holiday was the avalanche of calendars we get every year. They come from businesses and from nonprofit causes seeking donations. I noticed this month that at least two of them didn’t mention Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12.
Nor did they mention Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22 either. But they did mention Groundhog Day on Feb. 2. They also listed Feb. 17 as Presidents’ Day.
All my calendars show the third Monday in February (Feb. 17 this year) as Presidents’ Day. But the federal government’s official holiday calendar actually designates that day as Washington’s Birthday holiday. How it came to be almost universally known as “Presidents’ Day” is too long a story to tell here, but obviously it happened.
I agree that the office of President of the United States deserves our respect and so do all the 43 men who’ve been elected to it, but we can have different degrees of respect for different people. As for me, I give my highest respect to Lincoln, followed closely by Washington. It’s a photo finish.
Washington and Lincoln were truly unique. Washington was in charge of launching the United States, and Lincoln was in charge of preserving it. Each deserves a separate federal holiday on his birthday.
Washington was the model for all the presidents who followed him to live up to, and few have been able to do so. And as commanding general during the Revolutionary War, he steadfastly led the American Army through discouraging hardships to eventual victory.
Lincoln steadfastly led the nation through many discouraging setbacks in the Civil War to eventual victory. He also wrote some of the most thoughtful, inspiring and memorable speeches in American history. Also, he saw to it that slavery was outlawed in the United States.
And one more thing, he told jokes. That’s what gives him the edge with me over Washington.
So let’s give these two great presidents what they deserve: the recognition of having their birthdays become real national holidays. As for Presidents’ Day, we could move it to the day after Thanksgiving. That would be better than calling that day Black Friday.