Presidents’ Day 711.2

As Arabs in many countries are risking their lives in their struggle for democracy, many Americans take for granted our heritage and the freedoms others strive for.

Take Presidents’ Day as an example. We used to celebrate the birthdays of two of the greatest leaders in U.S. history, true American icons George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12).

Sadly, the incentive to savor and celebrate the exceptional attributes of our two best presidents was diluted in 1971 when Congress removed holiday status from Washington’s and Lincoln’s actual birthdays. Since then, the third Monday of February has replaced the birthday celebrations with a federal holiday that means little more than a day off.

In many ways, these men could not have been more different. Washington had an aristocratic bearing – he was elegant and refined. Lincoln was the opposite. Often called a rube or bumpkin, his dress and simple manner subjected him to ridicule.

Washington cared about and ultimately acquired wealth; Lincoln had no interest in money. Washington was very serious. Lincoln frequently told jokes and humorous stories to make his points. Washington was universally revered, the unanimous selection of his compatriots, whereas Lincoln had as many political enemies as friends.

The thing they had in common, however, besides being unusually tall and sharing a spot on the top of Mount Rushmore, was character marked by unassailable integrity and extraordinary courage. These rare qualities made them worthy of their own holidays.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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