Today, we celebrate Presidents Day. (So since it’s a holiday, I’ll keep it brief). Though we’ve been commemorating Washington’s Birthday in one form or another since the last full year of his presidency, it was the passing of the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968 that set the stage for what we today call Presidents Day (even though the official name for this federal holiday remains Washington’s Birthday).
The Bill sought to move a number of federal holidays to Monday so that workers could enjoy more three-day weekends throughout the year. During the debate, it was proposed that Washington’s Birthday be changed officially to Presidents Day in an effort to include Lincoln’s birthday, since many states were already giving it official recognition. While Congress rejected the name change, it didn’t take long for retailers to embrace and commercialize the Presidents Day opportunity. It turned out that the third week in February was a great time to clear inventories for the spring season. It would later evolve into one of the most heralded weekends of the year for auto sales.
Presidents Day is a characteristically American holiday. We use it as yet another occasion to sell, to buy, to consume, and thereby drive our economy. Meanwhile, we also honor two of our greatest Presidents and celebrate their exceptionally courageous political and moral leadership: Washington for freeing and governing our new nation, and Lincoln for ensuring that our nation remained undivided and became free for all.
Our great nation, at this time especially, needs both that robust commerce and such courageous leadership. Happy Presidents Day!