For many, President’s Day is all about that three day weekend. After the whirlwind of the holidays and then the observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, President’s Day is the last time a lot of people have any time off until May. But there’s more to President’s Day than a three day weekend and the slew of sales that are advertised. This day is for two of America’s most revered presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 in Colonial Virginia. Before he was the revolutionary War hero and President that we think of now, he started off as a land surveyor and also joined the Virginia militia where he was a major.
His first foray into war was the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 to 1763. After serving in the French and Indian War, Washington returned to his family’s home in Virginia and worked as a planter on his father’s plantation. However, in 1775, when the Revolutionary War broke out, Washington was selected by the Continental Congress to lead their army. Much like after his heroics in the French and Indian War, Washington returned to a private life after America’s independence was won from the British.
In 1787, when he presided over the writing of the US Constitution, Washington was the unanimous choice for our nation’s first president. He served two four-year terms, from 1789 to 1797. Although he could have continued to serve as president, he relinquished his power. It is because of him that presidents have only served two four-year terms since, with the one exception being FDR.
Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12th in Kentucky, spent much of his life in Indiana and Illinois. He was raised on the frontier and never formally attended school. He was self-educated and became a lawyer in Illinois. He served as an Illinois legislator and as a US Congressman from Illinois. After his stint as a congressman, he decided to return to his law practice in 1849. However, he returned to politics just 5 years later.
Lincoln is remembered as one of the most influential presidents we have had. He was America’s 16th president and served from 1860 until his assassination in 1865. He is most well known for guiding this country through the Civil War- a time of great upheaval. His Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery and changed the war from a conflict over states’ right to a war whose focus was the abolishment of slavery. His assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth came just 5 days after the Confederacy surrendered.
Still called Washington’s Birthday by the federal government, President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every February. As its name implies, it was originally intended to honor George Washington, our first president, on his birthday. However, in 1971 Congress fixed Washington’s Birthday and several other holidays on Mondays to create long holiday weekends. Both Washington and Lincoln’s likenesses can be found across our great country. From our money to monuments in Washington DC to the face of Mount Rushmore, we honor these presidents every day, not just on President’s Day.