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From: Jerry Cline
I have another potential "holiday" contest for VDARE – "George Washington's Birthday" vs. "President's Day". Please inform VDARE readers that there is not, nor has there ever been, a national holiday called "President's Day". The official federal holiday can be referenced in Title 5, section 6103(a) of the United States Code and clearly states that the third Monday in February is to be known only as "George Washington's Birthday".
How then did we get "President's Day"? There are two main reasons. First, in 1968, effective 1971, the federal government moved the holiday from Washington's actual birthday of February 22nd (Gregorian) to the third Monday in February in order to create a three day weekend. The name "George Washington's Birthday" was not changed. Sometime after this, President Nixon made an address referring to the holiday as "President's Day", possibly in a nod to groups that wished for a federal holiday honoring Lincoln. To this day, many cite Nixon as the President who legally changed the name. This is entirely false, as evidenced by the above-mentioned code section.
The second and more important reason for the evolution of "President's Day" was the effort to create state Martin Luther King holidays in the 1970s and 80s. (The national MLK holiday is irrelevant to the "President's Day" issue because the additional federal holiday honoring MLK did not change Washington's federal holiday). Because we live in a federal republic (in theory at least) states decide for themselves what are to be state holidays. As a result, most states do not celebrate the same days. Prior to 1968, all states celebrated Washington's birthday while only some states celebrated both Washington AND Lincoln, honoring them each with separate state holidays. It was the combination of the Washington and Lincoln holidays of some states in order to reduce the economic costs of the additional King holiday that was the catalyst for the "President's Day" name change.
The states can be broken down into four main categories:
(1) No Lincoln States – these states have never celebrated "Honest Abe" and, therefore, have no "President's Day" issues because there are no holidays to combine. Most of these states are in the South.
(2) No Combination – these states were very generous to their employees and allowed an additional holiday for MLK while retaining separate Washington and Lincoln holidays as well.
(3) Combine But Retain "Washington-Lincoln" – these states were afraid that a designation of "President's Day" would confuse the citizenry into believing that the state had in fact created a holiday for a branch of the federal government and so, decided to keep the names of Washington and Lincoln in the holiday. For example, Ohio combined its separate holidays, calling it "Washington-Lincoln Day". O.R.C. § 1.14(C).
(4) Combine and Change to "President's Day" – these states, a minority, foolishly believed that changing the name would in no way change the meaning of the holiday. It is from these states, as well as the Nixon proclamation, that the "President's Day" name change can be traced.
To summarize: the federal government and most states do not legally celebrate a "President's Day". Why is all of this important? The incorrect designation of "President's Day" in most of the country promotes the idea that the 3rd Monday of February is to celebrate all Presidents or worse, one branch of the federal government.
In fact, the problem is so widespread that Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) sponsored H.R. 1363 last year to force federal agencies to refer to the Washington holiday by its proper name. Because there was no vote, the bill died.
I suggest a new one should be written and passed this year to protect the Washington holiday from further dishonor. (I exclude the minority of states that have legally changed the name to "President's Day" insofar as they have the right to do so, although
I condemn them for their stupidity in believing that the holiday would retain it's original character by celebrating only two men). We as a nation must remember that this holiday is NOT to celebrate Grover Cleveland, Gerald Ford or heaven forbid, Bill Clinton. It is a day set aside to remember the "Father of Our Country".
February 26, 2001