Guest Column from State Representative Andy Thompson: Honoring our Chief Executives this Presidents' Day
As I dive into my fourth and final term as your state representative, I am once again reminded of the importance and role of leadership. This comes to the forefront of my mind as we celebrate Presidents’ Day, which this year falls on Monday, February 20. Pausing to consider the service and achievements of all the chief executives of the United States aids in fostering a greater appreciation for our country.
It is helpful to understand how Presidents’ Day became a national holiday. Its history dates back to 1800, when Americans began to recognize President George Washington’s birthday following his death the year before. However, Washington’s Birthday was only unofficially celebrated until 1879, when President Rutherford B. Hayes lawfully designated it as a federal holiday in the District of Columbia. It was not until 1885 that Washington’s Birthday was formally recognized in all of the United States.
For years, Washington’s Birthday was remembered on his actual date of birth, February 22. This changed in the late 1960s, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted it to the third Monday of February. Washington’s Birthday thus came to be recognized together with Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12. During the latter part of the twentieth century into the 2000s, several states moved to rename the holiday Presidents’ Day with the intention of honoring all individuals who have served as president.
The president of the United States does not merely serve as the head of our country. Rather, this office has also come to represent the values and ideals that we as Americans hold dear. Democracy, freedom, opportunity—these and more come to mind when we conceive of all that this office symbolizes. The leadership that the presidency provides is truly invaluable.
This Presidents’ Day, may we join together in remembering the diverse presidents who have guided our country through the good and bad, thick and thin. May we gaze backwards at the birth of our great nation and look forward to its growth and progress. It is a genuine privilege to call myself an American and to serve as the representative of the 95th House District, and one that I am especially grateful for on this meaningful holiday.