In 1968, Congress voted to move the federal holiday associated with Washington's birthday to the third Monday in February (also moving Columbus Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day to various Mondays). This law took effect in 1971. Since then, more by drift than deliberate policy so far as I can tell, various states, counties, municipalities, school districts, and private employers have come to recognize the third Monday in February as "Presidents' Day" (or is it "President's Day?" . . . "Presidents Day"?). This year, "Presidents' Day" fell on Monday, February 17.
Just a few days ago, on February 13, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R MD) reintroduced legislation to restore the legal name, George Washington's Birthday, to the federal holiday to be observed on the third Monday of February each year. As Mr. Bartlett sees it, it is to honor the greatness of this particularly great president that we have the holiday. Anyway, as he insists (his emphasis), "There is no and never has been a Presidents' Day federal holiday!"
The bill he is introducing now is identical to the bill he introduced two years ago in the 107th Congress (H.R. 420), which died quietly in committee. I understand resistance to the bill may come from some congressmen and others who feel that, since there is no official legal federal holiday for Lincoln's birthday, at least "Presidents' Day" allows somehow for honoring both of our two greatest presidents. If this is the case, one can say that there are honorable motives on both sides of the issue.
Maybe Mr. Bartlett should be even bolder and move for the restoration of the actual date of Washington's birthday (February 22) as the annual day celebrating "George Washington's Birthday." He has a precedent. When Congress moved the federal recognition of Veterans Day from the deeply significant November 11 to some wandering Monday in October, there was a great outcry from state legislatures, citizens, and veterans organizations. Congress quickly reversed itself and returned Veterans Day to its traditional and meaningful date.
There is a bleak liberal logic to the movement of these national holidays to the various meandering Mondays. First, living political traditions are sacrificed for the supposed convenience of federal bureaucratsthree day weekends! The same bureaucratic frame of mind then replaces political substanceGeorge Washington's Birthdaywith an empty abstraction"Presidents' Day." But there are reminders that the liberal administrative state and its bureaucracies will not replace politics; they will only give us a different politics. In recent years, we have seen increasing liberal assaults upon the use of George Washington's name in the naming of public schools. Some of those leading these assaults may well have American ancestors who chose to name themselves or their sons after Washington. It is much more likely today that they will name themselves or their sons . . . Muhammed.