WASHINGTON – Presidents Day is too much of a good thing, says Frederick Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett — specifically, too many presidents.
The holiday that falls on the third Monday of February should belong to Washington alone, Bartlett contends. He has proposed legislation to require the federal government to use “Washington’s Birthday” on anything it publishes or funds about the day, which is closest to Washington’s real birthday on Feb. 22.
The problem, Bartlett said, is the all-inclusive “Presidents” title, which popular culture and many calendar companies use to refer to the holiday, diminishes the achievements of two great presidents while honoring mediocre ones. It’s a perfect example of the old saying, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business,” he said.
“It’s just another day you don’t go to school,” he said. “Another day you have a sale.”
Bartlett bets not one in 50 schools takes the time to think about Washington and Lincoln’s achievements each Feb. 12 and Feb. 22, their respective birthdays.
“It’s important for our kids to reflect on the quality of these figures that we should emulate,” he said. “Our kids need to go back to understand how our country was founded.”
Many states list Washington’s Birthday as the holiday’s official name, based on a proclamation by President Nixon, Bartlett said. The congressman was therefore upset to see “Presidents Day” listed on congressional Web sites.
“Even the Congress can’t get it right,” he said.
Some Illinois members of Congress are challenging Bartlett’s bill. They fear Lincoln may lost in the shuffle, Bartlett said. His bill, however, requests a presidential proclamation each Feb. 12 to recognize Lincoln’s birthday, which is more than the federal government officially does now.
It is only popular opinion that has combined the two presidents’ birth celebrations into one holiday. Despite suggestions to do so, no official federal proclamation makes it so.
However, even Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was convinced the bill would put Lincoln in the background, Bartlett said. Hastert’s office did not return calls for comment.
“There’s this misconception that this would diminish Lincoln,” Bartlett said. “I’m sure it would enhance Lincoln’s honors.”
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