COMMENTARY: The President’s Day Un-Celebration — Honoring Not Just the Great, But All U.S. Presidents

If you’re not going to school or work today, it’s because it’s a national holiday. The country used to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln separately, but in 1971 Richard Nixon and Congress, in order to create a perpetual three-day weekend, merged the two holidays into a brand new one called Presidents Day, to honor all U.S. presidents.

The end result is that we equate the lives and leadership of two of the greatest men in our history with those of a diverse parade of men ranging from extraordinary to mediocre, and noble to dishonorable. What’s more, we reduce this and otherdays set aside to honor crucial people and historical events to no more than a day off. I doubt whether you’ll be reading many articles or seeing TV specials reminding you of the magnificent character and contributions of Washington or Lincoln.

I fear that the failure of our government, our schools and our media to emphatically remind us about our roots in a way that nurtures both pride and gratitude fosters an unhealthy, self-absorbed entitlement mentality. Sure, we’ll gladly take the day off for Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and shoot off fireworks on July 4th. But we’re too busy or blase to pause to reconnect with our heritage and experience real appreciation for our heroes and their sacrifices.

Despite the initial surge of patriotism following September 11, I fear Americans are an increasingly ungrateful people, unwilling to appreciate what we have and why we have it.

And we wonder why our kids don’t appreciate what they have and what we do for them.

If we keep treating our most important values as meaningless relics, that’s exactly what they’ll become.

(Related posts:  Confessions of an Abraham Lincoln Groupie)

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