Monday, February 18, 2013

Red, White and Blue Rising

President's Day 2013: So What's the 411?

Let me just put out there. I like history. Always have and for the most part always will. I learned years ago that "if you don't know where you've been, then how the hell you going to know where you are going." Of course that's not an exact quote, but I kinda like it. Over the weekend I enjoyed one of my guilty pleasures of watching some History Channel, both the original and H2. I know for many, this doesn' come close to a Housewife slap down or the latest bachelor decision fare. But, as I've arrived as a man of a certain age, I can do damn what I please. So, I was truly stumped to watch a H2 program on "10 Things You Don't Know." This time it was highlighting ten things about President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The show is hosted by author and maverick historian David Eisenbach whom reveals intriguing and provocative details about some of history’s most fascinating individuals and groups.  Each week he seeks to explore the lives of historical figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to the members of the Rat Pack, discovering what your textbooks never told you. And let me tell you that he wowed me with this last weekend with reveals that the Roosevelts' marriage was a political arrangement of epic proportions. Meanwhile, FDR had a long-running affair with his wife's secretary, and Eleanor was a closet lesbian in love with a female news reporter. Not to mention that Mrs. Franklin moved her love interest into the White House in a bedroom next to where she and Mr. Roosevelt slept separately. Who Knew! No matter all those tasty tidbits, its undeniable that the Roosevelt's were the "power couple" of their time. Roosevelt's New Deal and his wife's tireless support of it as well as her own civil rights agenda continue to resonate to this day. Check out the History Channel for that cerebral diversion at  Let me know what you think....

A President's Day Primer

Presidents' Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or "New Style" calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or "Old Style" calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split - some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.

When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn't seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington's Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington's Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington's identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday "Presidents' Day", but the idea didn't go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition.

Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday "President's Day." From that point forward, the term “Presidents' Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.
In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington's Birthday be "officially" called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

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