February 20th, 2017

Presidents’ Day: everybody gets a trophy

Today is Presidents’ Day.

Or is it “Presidents Day”? Or even “President’s Day”? You can find all those variations online, although if you parse them they mean very different things.

It was significantly easier before 1971, the year they consolidated Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays (no problem with the possessives there) into one holiday and moved it to the third Monday of February, where it floated around a bit in terms of dates.

I was surprised to learn that (at least, according to this site) it’s still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the feds. You could have fooled me—and the Post Office, whose website, in announcing the fact that post offices are closed today, refers to the holiday as “President’s Day.”

Note the possessive singular. No doubt it’s the nefarious Donald Trump again, giving out orders that it is his day and his alone! One president, now and forever.

It’s the singular, too, for whatever number of people will be gathering together to show how fervently and righteously (lefteously?) un-Trump they are in honor of what they are calling “Not my President’s Day.”

More on the history of the day itself:

By the mid-1980s Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars. Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies.

Of course, people are now free to celebrate whatever president they wish to honor. How about some of the more obscure ones? Let’s have a big trophy for everyone!

25 Responses to “Presidents’ Day: everybody gets a trophy”

  1. Cappy Says:

    I choose James A. Garfield.

  2. Brian Swisher Says:

    Not William Henry Harrison?

  3. Vanderleun Says:

    You would.

  4. OM Says:

    Calvin

  5. Griffin Says:

    Grover Cleveland…the veto president. Plus he married a 22 year old woman while he was president.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Given the challenges they faced, Washington and Lincoln are in their own category.

    Of those remaining, I hold Rutherford Birchard Hayes, the 19th President of the United States (1877–81) in particularly high regard.

    When the Civil War began, he left a fledgling political career to join the Union Army as an officer. Hayes was wounded five times, most seriously at the Battle of South Mountain. He earned a reputation for bravery in combat and was promoted to the rank of brevet major general.

    After the war, he served as a Republican in Congress from 1865 to 1867. Hayes left Congress to run for Governor of Ohio and was elected to two consecutive terms, from 1868 to 1872, and then to a third term, from 1876 to 1877.

    But Hayes did not want to be President and strongly resisted being drafted.

    Finally yielding to the argument that duty to a divided nation required it of him. He accepted on the condition that he would only serve one term. Stating that he would do all he could for his 4 years, foregoing the distraction of a reelection campaign, while asserting that other good man could equally serve.

    In 1876, Hayes was elected president in one of the most contentious elections in national history. He lost the official popular vote to Democrat Samuel J. Tilden (due at least in part to Southern suppression of Republican votes, it is not known with certainty who won the actual popular vote) but he won an intensely disputed electoral college vote after a Congressional commission awarded him twenty contested electoral votes.

    The result was the Compromise of 1877, in which the Democrats acquiesced to Hayes’s election and Hayes withdrew remaining U.S. troops protecting Republican office holders in the South.

    As President he promoted and implemented modest civil service reforms that laid the groundwork for further reform in the 1880s and 1890s.

    He did his best to reconcile the divisions left over from the Civil War and Reconstruction.

    Hayes believed in meritocratic government and equal treatment without regard to race.

    He insisted that maintenance of the gold standard was essential to economic recovery.

    His policy toward Western Indians anticipated the assimilationist program of the Dawes Act of 1887.

    Hayes kept his pledge not to run for re-election, retired to his home in Ohio, and became an advocate of social and educational reform.

    Biographer Ari Hoogenboom says his greatest achievement was to restore popular faith in the presidency and to reverse the deterioration of executive power that had set in after Abraham Lincoln’s death.

    IMO, Hayes demonstrated the qualities that the Roman Cinncinatus and our Washington had before, willingly stepping away from power after having done their very best.

  7. M J R Says:

    I select John Hanson, our first president.

    WHAT?!?! you may inquire, incredulously.

    Read on [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hanson ]:

    “While George Washington is recognized by historians as the first President of the United States, since he began serving when the current United States Constitution went into effect in 1789, some biographies of Hanson have made arguments that Hanson was actually the first holder of the office of president since he began serving following the first election for a full one-year presidential term once the Articles of Confederation was ratified in 1781.”

    End of history lesson. G’day!

  8. parker Says:

    None. POTUS was originally to be an executive carrying of the laws created by Congress. The House was to reflect the desires of the people, and the Senate was intended to represent the desires of their respective State. The courts as created by Congress were to hold their offices as determined by Congress and to keep quiet for the most part.

    The Republic started to be chipped away shortly after its founding. Wilson struck the first serious blow against the Republic. FDR, LBJ,and BHO have knocked the Republic to its knees. That is my opinion and I am sticking to it.

    Begin by abolishing the 17th and give States their righful place in the District of Columbia if we wish to restore the Republic.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    OM:

    What about Hobbes?

  10. Griffin Says:

    parker:

    Hence my selection of Grover Cleveland who believed in your definition of the role of the president. And I would say that the real turning point was Theodore Roosevelt who was the first activist president. He has always been a tough one for me because he is in my opinion the most interesting president we have had but the things he did set the precedents that led to Wilson and then his distant nephew FDR.

  11. Liz Says:

    I was born on the 12th (Lincoln’s Day). Some years, I did not get a birthday card from my grandmother.

    But I never worried about it since it usually showed up on Washington’s Birthday (the 22nd).

  12. DaveMay Says:

    Hobbes?

  13. LondonTrader Says:

    The NYSE closes for federal holidays. It has always listed today as Washington’s Birthday as that is still the official federal name, as you point out. One of those little know facts of which I was aware.

    https://www.nyse.com/markets/hours-calendars

  14. parker Says:

    Griffin,

    I agree I should have included Teddy.

  15. Yankee Says:

    First President is still best President, so George Washington is always #1 (I get tired of some of these modern historians putting Lincoln too often in the top spot).

    In chronological order, some under-rated Presidents:
    James K. Polk (1845-1849)
    William McKinley (1897-1901)
    Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

  16. M J R Says:

    Yankee, 6:41 pm — “First President is still best President, . . . .”

    My understanding of the history is that George Washington could have been King, if he so desired. But he was adamant that USA not be a kingdom. On top of that, he went on to set the precedent (eventually enshrined in the Constitution in the mid-twentieth century) of no more than two four year terms.

    Anyway, who can imagine any of our twenty-first century politicians turning down an offer to serve [actually, *rule*, not merely serve] as King?? (Don’t all raise your hand at once.) That’s one very good reason to agree with Yankee.

  17. charles Says:

    I’ll leave the real answers to better historians; but, I will choose two from within my lifetime – one an actual President and the other a Presidential wannabe.

    The President from my lifetime I choose as one who as truly “Presidential” is, even though I didn’t vote for him, Ford. I wished that I had voted for him because he turned out to be the better guy in that he was truly concerned about uniting our country after a bitter era. Historians will, if they haven’t already, give him more credit than he has been given for uniting us when the US really needed it.

    The second one I’ll choose was only a VP and a Presidential candidate – Walter Mondale. He was so-so as a VP and most likely would have been so-so if he won the Presidency. But, I do given him “good marks” because I remember his very dignified concession speech; especially when he went off script to chastise those Reagan Haters who booed when Mondale mentioned Reagan’s name.

    Those Reagan haters were the forerunners of the Bush haters and, now, the Trump haters. But, Mondale chastised those booing reminding them that Reagan was elected and he is OUR president. Reagan’s failures would be our failure and Reagan’s successes would be success for us all.

    Maybe it is just ol’ fashioned nostalgia on my part; but, I remember a more dignified, less bitter partisan, political arena when I was younger. I kind of miss that.

  18. OM Says:

    Neo:

    Of course I was referring to Calvin Coolidge. Did anyone else get the reference? Although Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes was a bit more like our current President. It was a dark day when Watterson stopped the strip.

  19. Jim Miller Says:

    Before I answer the question asked, I’ll just mention that the states have many different names for today — and some don’t even make it a state holiday. If you are curious, check out the Wikipedia entry. (I am embarrassed to say that my home state, Washington, calls it “Presidents’ Day”.)

    An Eisenhower story that I have always liked: Eisenhower was preparing for a press conference and the staff was discussing how to answer a question they thought would be asked, but for which they had no good answer.

    After a bit, Eisenhower told them not to worry; if it came up, he’d just confuse the reporters.

    It did, and he did.

    And a story on how he encouraged the Chi-Coms to sign an armistice in Korea: He brought in tactical nuclear weapons, and quietly let the Indian government know about the weapons, knowing they would pass the information on to the Chinese.

    (At least some of the tactical nukes were in artillery shells!)

    Now back to working on a post on the blessings that diversity brought to the Austro-Hungarian empire.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    OM:

    “Hobbes” was my attempt at a joke. Maybe I need a smiley-face icon?

    I think everyone knows you meant Coolidge.

  21. TennLion Says:

    5 U.S.C. Sec 6103 for federal employees, but each state gets to set their own rules. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/5/6103

  22. OM Says:

    Do we have Hobbes as our current Vice President? In the strip Hobbes was sometimes the voice of moderation, caution. But then again he was quite in the thick of it most of the time.

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    Surprising how the state of Israel, a religious theocratic oligarchy of judges and Pharisees, mirrors the state of the US now. Worshipping Presidents as idols, great men great for their own works and pride, rather than great because of the spirit that guided them. Worshiping human made laws like the US Constitution as if it was a divine mandate and commandment, rather than obeying divine laws.

    Jewish resistance to Jesus of Nazareth: Yeshua. Jewish judge resistance and hunting down of the Christians for violating man made Jewish ‘religious laws’, while calling for deaths of humans because they broke religious laws.

    Old Nebu had a similar problem as current modern day Americans do.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    The result was the Compromise of 1877, in which the Democrats acquiesced to Hayes’s election and Hayes withdrew remaining U.S. troops protecting Republican office holders in the South.

    The Betrayal of 1877, comparable to the Fall of Saigon and Democrat deals to get more money to pay for votes from it.

    It’s like worshipping Hussein pulling out of Iraq, GB.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    90% of blacks voting Democrat and the Democrat stronghold of the South, was the direct result of that betrayal btw.

    Although it wasn’t the singular event that caused it.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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