This week, we have two very different holidays; President Lincoln’s Birthday (today) and Valentine’s Day.
Neither one is “holiday” in the sense of the word that anyone gets off of school or work for them or in the literal sense of the word which is “holy day”…yes, I know St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical holiday in honor of St. Valentine. It is safe to say the day has evolved as far away from the day’s original intent as to be totally unrecognizable.
Next week, we have another holiday: Washington’s Birthday or “President’s Day” a mashup of the two birthdays to give us a chance to remember and celebrate both presidents. The interesting thing is that while West Virginia calls it Presidents Day, and so do a lot of other states and cities, the federal government doesn’t. Officially, and according to the US Code, February 17 is Washington’s Birthday. The official list of holidays from the federal Office of Personnel Management includes this footnote:
*This holiday is designated as “Washington’s Birthday” in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.
Lincoln is arguably one of the greatest presidents the United States has ever seen and is definitely one of the most popular. I would wager school children (and most adults) could tell you more about Lincoln than Washington. Just a few months ago, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Not of some important event or civil war battle, but for when the president stood up and made a very short speech. The only other presidential speeches I can think of that even come close are Franklin Roosevelt’s “Day That Will Live in Infamy” speech and Kennedy’s “Ask Not” speech. I don’t see anyone celebrating the day they gave those speeches.
In the grander scheme of things, the federal government has much more to worry about than whether or not we celebrate Lincoln’s birthday as an official holiday. Considering the job our leaders in the city named for Washington have been doing recently, I’d like for them to do ANYTHING positive. I really doubt Lincoln would care one way or the other. He is quoted as saying:
Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.
And once again, I think I have learned an important lesson from Abraham Lincoln..