George Washington’s birthday is a federal holiday most popularly known today as “President’s Day.” It is celebrated the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, whose birthday was on the 22nd of February. President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is February 12th and for that reason many states officially celebrate this holiday on the third Monday of February as “Washington and Lincoln Day.”
According to mountvernon.org, “after Washington died in 1799, his birthday was informally celebrated across the country.”
Washington’s birthday is also recognized in another unique fashion. Starting in 1896, it has become a tradition to read Washington’s Farewell Address on February 22 (the actual day of his birth) in the US Senate by a current member. This tradition reminds us of a man whose patriotic spirit still inspires us to this day, particularly federal workers who uphold what he helped create.
It was first officially made a holiday for federal employees in Washington, D.C. government offices. The original holiday was the first federal holiday in honor of an American president. It was celebrated on the day of George Washington’s birthday, February 22nd, and was not popularly known as “President’s Day” until the 19th century.
In blog for Family Research Council entitled, “Let’s Make it Washington & Lincoln Day,” Robert Morrison reminds readers of the societal memory decay when it comes to knowing our nations history:
President Reagan said: “If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”
One way we can see the erosion of the American spirit is through the loss of civic ceremony and a sense of our history as a people. I would point to Presidents Day as a symptom of this loss. What is this thing? Formally, it is still the federal holiday dedicated to George Washington, but what is it in the minds of the people? Is it a celebration of the presidency? Are we really celebrating James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore along with Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton? I hope not.
The reason to oppose Presidents Day is because we cannot focus on forty-four presidents. They become a blur. Ronald Reagan understood this when he led the commemoration of the Fortieth Anniversary of D-Day. He went to Normandy and invited grizzled veterans of the invasion, brave airborne rangers, to sit before him. “These are the boys of Pointe-du-Hoc,” he intoned, “these are the men who liberated a continent and left the vivid air signed with their honor.”
By celebrating Washington & Lincoln, we give the honor due to our Founding Father and our Redeemer President. It was Lincoln who, in freeing the slaves, assured freedom to the free. And it was clear throughout his presidency that Lincoln revered Washington above all his predecessors. Lincoln fought for “a vast future;” Washington secured this haven for “millions yet unborn.” We should honor both of our greatest leaders and celebrate Washington & Lincoln Day.
In honor of Washington’s birthday, I’ve compiled several of my favorite – and what may be some of the most important – of President George Washington’s quotes.
“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – [George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796].
“…Reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – [George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796].
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity. religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.” – [Letter to the Clergy of Philadelphia, March 3, 1797].
“Of all the dispositions and habits which least to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indespensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in the Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the opposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. [George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796].
“The blessed religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest purposes. Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the Supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting an inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchm[en]t can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.” [George Washington – Draft of First Inaugural Address, April, 1789].