Shafting the Father of Our Country

In the beginning there was a holiday declared by individual states to celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln each February 12th. In addition, there was a federal holiday on February 22nd to commemorate the birth of our first president, George Washington.

Then came the meddling from the great fathers in Washington, D.C. who wanted to give the nation’s grand bureaucracy yet another three day weekend from the toils of labor. And so it came to pass that the federal holiday would be celebrated on the third Monday of each February. And the legislation was specific – the new federal holiday would be called “Washington’s Birthday.”

But for one year only, in the 1970’s, President Richard Nixon decided to call the annual celebration “President’s Day.” The name, unfortunately stuck for ever more. Now the nation’s memory has been erased. School children don’t readily know the actual birthday of the “Father of our Nation.” Bureaucrats don’t much care. They get more days off and President’s Day now seemingly honors all the nation’s presidents, even Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

To rectify this national shame, Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett introduced legislation (H.R. 1363) that would specify that the Federal government obey the law and would drop the name “President’s Day” instead, reverting back to the legal name of “Washington’s Birthday”.

All was going well. Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats supported the legislation. Bartlett particularly wanted the legislation in place in time for the 200th anniversary of Washington’s death on December 14, 1999.

But one of the co-sponsors of the bill, Ray LaHood of Illinois, suddenly changed his mind and told Speaker Dennis Hastert (also from Illinois) that he would not support the bill because it did not honor Abraham Lincoln. Hastert immediately dropped the bill and stopped floor action.

Of course all of this could easily be avoided by the stroke of Bill Clinton’s famous Executive-Order pen which he could use to order all federal agencies to simply call the holiday “Washington’s Birthday”. But he won’t. Meanwhile, Rep. LaHood’s ignorance of holiday history and federal law has served only to deny George Washington, our greatest president, recognition by the U.S. Congress of the 200th anniversary of his death.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.