Tomorrow, Saturday, February 22nd would be President Washington’s 282nd birthday. But we’ve monkeyed with the calendar since his day.
So as far as he was concerned, he was born on February 11, 1731. That would make him 283 years old and would put his birthday adjacent to president Lincoln’s... only much earlier.
And that would make a dandy Presidents’ Day holiday.
As it is, we have lumped all the presidents together and Presidents Day became one of those dumb floating holidays designed to give us three day weekends.
You may be old enough to remember when Washington’s birthday was a national holiday. But in 1971 Congress threw all those guys, past, present and future into the mixmaster and what came out was the current mush.
It was kind of nice to honor our first president singly.
And if today’s congress had been in power in 1971, we still would be... because it couldn’t have gotten anything that important done.
But times were different and so was the presidency.
Nixon was in office then. And he probably favored the change because he likely knew his administration would at some point collapse and that would be the end of any honors… except this one.
There are different takes on who this holiday actually honors. We take it to mean all the Presidents. But some people say it’s still Washington’s Birthday. Some say it’s Washington and Jefferson, some say it’s Washington and Lincoln.
Lincoln never got much recognition in what we now call the former Confederate states. Not then, and not now, either.
If they’re going to relegate Washington to one face in a crowd, why not go all the way and make it Founders’ Day. Throw in all those early Americans and the brothers and cousins and family spokesmen.
Why let Alexander Hamilton go uncelebrated. Or Franklin Pierce. Or Benjamin Franklin. Or Franklin Roosevelt.
Think of the cabinet members we could throw into this mob.
And what about the first ladies? Martha? Who remembers her? Mary Todd Lincoln? Abigail Fillmore? Jackie Kennedy? Pat Nixon? Nancy Reagan? Michelle Obama?
Didn’t they all have meaningful contributions? Not everyone could be Eleanor Roosevelt. But still…
After all, Washington didn’t do it all alone. England was too big a cherry tree for one man to chop down … especially with those wooden choppers … or were they ivory?
Shrapnel Bridge, tunnel and airport edition:
--The George Washington Bridge is one of the few in greater New York that people actually call by name. No one ever called the 59th Street Bridge by its real name, the Queensboro, nor do they call it its new real name, the Ed Koch Bridge. And does anyone call the Tri Borough Bridge the RFK?
--The local tunnels don’t have that problem, maybe because they were named sensibly to begin with. Lincoln, Holland, Brooklyn Battery, Queens Midtown. And does anyone call the airport between Newark and Elizabeth “Newark Liberty International?”
--In Metro Washington, they may at some point resurrect the statue of John Foster Dulles that originally “graced” the airport named for him. It’s in a storeroom next to baggage claim. Appropriate for one of America’s leading pieces of baggage.
-The Tappan Zee Bridge was named for a line of sea going kitchen stoves.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014