“If we do this — change the date of the Washington holiday celebration — 10 years from now our school children will not know what Feb. 22 means. They will not know or care when George Washington was born. They will know that in the middle of February they will have a three-day weekend for some reason. This will come.”
Theses prophetic words, passionately argued by Tennessee Congressman Dan Kuykendall over 40 years ago have come true. Ask most school kids today why Feb. 22 is special, and they will probably give you a blank stare.
The passage of the Uniform Monday Federal Holiday Law in 1968 triggered an avalanche that would bury “the father of our country,” along with his guiding virtues and reminders of how and why the U.S. was born.
Washington inspired his contemporaries and countless Americans since, motivating others to emulate him. Washington set the gold standard for presidents and private character.
“More than any other,” says Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., Washington “made possible our republican form of government.”
When we grew up, celebrating George Washington’s birthday was a big deal, and you couldn’t help but be inspired by him.
We studied him, what he stood for and what he did to bring America to fruition.
Mary Beth’s grandmother, a patriotic American if you ever met one, loved that she shared the same birth date with Washington, always having a birthday cake covered with cherries and American flags.
When faced with the crisis of the Civil War, a council from Philadelphia came begging Washington’s Farewell Address be read as a morale booster and bulwark to a teetering and fear-filled country.
Tennessee Sen. Andrew Johnson introduced the petition in the Senate. “In view of the perilous condition of the country,” he said, “I think the time has arrived when we should recur back to the days, the times, and the doings of Washington and the patriots of the Revolution, who founded the government under which we live.”
In his Farewell Address, Washington’s advice to the nation was to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, protect American independence and encourage morality and religion. The reading of the Farewell Address in the Senate remains an annual event, even if his advice is ignored there.
Remember Washington’s deeds and heed his advice.
A step in the right direction would be to correctly attach Feb. 22 to the federal George Washington’s Birthday holiday. This year Washington’s Birthday holiday falls on the 21st, the closest it can be to his actual birthdate, since Congress in 1968 changed the Federal holiday to the third Monday in February.
George Washington was a man of honor known for his great leadership and character.
“Wherever men love liberty, wherever they believe in patriotism, wherever they exalt high character, by universal consent they turn to the name of George Washington,” said Calvin Coolidge. “No occasion could be conceived more worthy, more truly and comprehensible American, than that which is chosen to commemorate this divinely appointed captain.”
(Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are best selling authors and speakers. To comment on this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)