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Presidents’ Day roots run deep

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Presidents’ Day roots run deep

Vector image of the Presidents day banner

Vector image of the Presidents day banner

Vector image of the Presidents day banner

Vector image of the Presidents day banner

Kylee B. '21, Writer

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Presidents’ Day is often overlooked as just another day off of school. However, this holiday is much more than that and dates back to more than one hundred years ago. The holiday, originally known as “Washington’s Birthday,” honored George Washington, but in some states, it has changed to include Abraham Lincoln’s birthday as well.

The first celebration of Presidents’ Day was in 1879 when Sen. Steven Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas proposed the event, and President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. Originally, the holiday only applied to the District of Columbia, but it was then expanded to all other states in 1885. At the time, Washington’s Birthday was one of four national federal holidays, along with New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. Washington was the first person to have an entire holiday dedicated to himself, according to History.com.

The reality is most students are not knowledgeable about the history of Presidents’ Day, especially considering it only celebrated one president in the first place. This holiday is not an event students read about in their high school history textbooks or even something they learn in grade school.

“I honestly had no clue that Presidents’ Day was originally made to commemorate Washington’s birthday, and I definitely was unaware the meaning of the holiday ever changed. This topic was never something I was taught in my history classes,” Big Walnut student Morgan B. ‘21 said.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill to move a number of federal holidays to Monday. In the process of debating this bill, it was proposed that Washington’s Birthday be made to honor not only Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22) but Lincoln’s too (Feb. 12), according to Britannica.com.

A common misconception among students as well as adults is Presidents’ Day was made to celebrate all of the United States presidents, when in reality, it was made to honor President Washington, then later changed to also commemorate President Lincoln.

“Presidents’ Day is important to me because it serves as a reminder of how our country began and what has been endured. Saying that, I believe that it allows us to learn from the leaders of our past and apply their actions to situations in today’s world. Students should learn more about Presidents’ Day so they can admire how past presidential accomplishments impacted the world today and how as a global society we can learn from those actions,” World History teacher Chris Binkley said.

Presidents’ Day can bring out the patriotic side in people, and there are numerous fun ways to celebrate the Founding Fathers. People can take quizzes on the country’s history or throw a get-together with some friends. Writing a letter to the president is also a unique option, and it is fun to see if he replies. Another option is visiting one of the country’s national parks, like Mount Rushmore which has Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt’s face carved into it. National parks are just one of the ways the United States recognizes how the presidents have shaped this country.

There are numerous interesting facts about the presidents and the U.S. famous national parks. For instance, Colonial Beach, Va, Washington’s birthplace and New York City, Roosevelt’s birthplace have both been made into national historic sites. President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone as the first national park, and Adams National Historic Park was the birthplace of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, according to the National Park Foundation.

Former presidents have celebrated Presidents’ Day in various ways, and the times have changed drastically. Barack Obama spent this past Presidents’ Day at Ayesha Curry’s restaurant, International Smoke. However, George Washington used to spend Presidents’ Day building a fence around his peach trees.

“Even though 90 percent of students look at Presidents’ Day as another day off, it really has so much more to it. Learning about our former presidents is crucial because it allows us to be informed about the history of the United States and most importantly how our country came to be this way. We can also learn from our mistakes in the past by learning about the history of our presidents,” Hannah M. ‘20 said.

All the United States presidents have made an impact on this country whether it be good or bad. Many former presidents still positively affect the U.S. even after they have left the White House. Barack Obama has written numerous books and even starred in David Letterman’s Netflix show. Jimmy Carter founded the Carter Center in 1982 and Bill Clinton has been an advocate for several worthy causes like the Red Cross. Presidents’ Day is a special day to honor these spectacular presidents, but they should be celebrated everyday for everything they do for this country.

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Presidents’ Day roots run deep