Washington’s Day

It’s Presidents Day. A slightly strange federal holiday, I like to celebrate George Washington because more than any other president he defined the American conception of the presidency. He was probably the most singular figure in our history even among the founders.

When I became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution I was living in Old City, Philadelphia, so I stopped by Washington Square to pay tribute to the unknown dead there and to Washington’s memorial which has an eternal flame. That’s when I took this photo. Above Washington the wall bears the inscription “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.” A stark way to remember what Washington helped provide for us, and the parallel that Franklin cautioned we had a Republic “so long as we can keep it.”

But other presidents are celebrated today, too. Different states do things differently, which fits with the federalist tradition. A little history from The Washington Post:

Some states do in fact honor both Washington, who was born Feb. 22, and Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12. But other states honor Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but not Lincoln, on this holiday and some states honor all the presidents. Then there are a handful of states, including Illinois, that have declared Lincoln’s birthday a state holiday — whatever day of the week Feb. 12 happens to fall — while also marking the federal holiday. In Virginia, Washington’s home state, the holiday is called George Washington’s Day. In Alabama, it is called “Washington and Jefferson Day” (although Jefferson was born on April 13).