Presidents Day

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When I was a lad, every school child looked forward to February, the shortest month, yet with the most holidays. We got two days off from school: Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12) and George Washington’s (February 22).

Of course, fixed dates like that don’t always fall on a school day. When one happened on a weekend, the no one got the day off.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 changed all that. The goal was to create five three-day weekends: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day. A decade later, the latter was returned to its rightful place on November 11, the date of the armistice ending World War I.

Today’s holiday is still officially Washington’s Birthday, although the third Monday of February will never occur on the 22nd. Many states recognize this day as Presidents Day to honor both Lincoln and Washington. Others say it’s a day to remember all our presidents.

The great and the human

Mount Rushmore, pictured here, honors four great presidents: Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln. Mount Rushmore’s sculptures are monumental. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum planned to make the presidents full-figure, the height of the mountain.

Nearby, the City of Presidents walkway displays life-size statues of all the presidents through Obama on street corners of downtown Rapid City. If Rushmore is monumental, Rapid City’s statues are human, as if you met them on the street.

And that’s the way we should remember them. Presidents are human. They are flawed. They make good decisions and bad ones.

But we are a democratic republic and the leader in the White House reflects the prevailing wisdom of the American public at the time. You get what you vote for. Don’t blame the past. Help build the future.

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