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There’s More to Presidents Day Than Sales and Shopping Sprees

Every year, since the 1980s, on the third Monday of February, retailers have been enticing consumers with sales and special deals. Everybody likes to save money, but is that Presidents Day is really all about? Well, it didn’t start out that way. In fact, it started out as a day to honor only one past president’s birthday, not two.

An Act of Congress established Washington’s Birthday – Feb. 22 – as a federal holiday in 1880. In January 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved the holiday to the third Monday in February, which led to the renaming of the holiday as Presidents Day in the mid-1980s, thanks to some encouragement from advertisers. Although Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12, 1809, was never a federal holiday, it is now incorporated into Presidents Day celebrations, remembrances and advertising. The same advertising pressure that led to the renaming of the Washington’s Birthday holiday also brought an end to businesses, other than the US Postal Service, closing in honor of it.

Retailers focus so much on selling their wares that nobody ever really thinks about the two men the day is meant to honor. Both were considered men of integrity. Integrity is important both in your business and personal relationships. Although the story about George Washington cutting down a cherry tree and then confessing the crime to his father after saying, “I can’t tell a lie, Pa,” has been proven false, it is true that he refused to promote his cousin William Washington to a higher rank because he didn’t want others to view the promotion as favoritism. Long before it became mandatory, Washington served only two terms as president.

Abraham is best known for signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that put an end to slavery, the Gettysburg Address and being the first president to get assassinated. He espoused the beliefs of equality and freedom for all in the Declaration of Independence. When he was a congressman representing the Whig party, he supported things like internal improvements and urbanization.

Presidents Day is not just a day to go shopping. It’s a day to reflect on all the freedoms we enjoy thanks to our first president George Washington and our 16th president Abraham Lincoln. Without them and their courage to do what they thought was right and best for our nation, where would we all be right now?

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