Island Senior: Celebrating Presidents Day

Posted February 16, 2020 at 10:05 am by

Island Senior is a reg­u­lar col­umn on the San Juan Update writ­ten by Peg­gy Sue McRae…

George Washington - by John Trumbull 1790

There will be no lunch served at the Mullis Cen­ter on Mon­day. Pres­i­dents Day is a fed­er­al hol­i­day; banks and the post office are also closed. Before the Uni­form Fed­er­al Hol­i­days act of 1971 we observed Abra­ham Lincoln’s birth­day Feb­ru­ary 12 and George Washington’s birth­day on Feb­ru­ary 22. Mak­ing the third Mon­day in Feb­ru­ary Pres­i­dents Day hon­ors all of our pres­i­dents and gives us a 3‑day weekend.

You may think of Washington’s birth­day as lit­tle more than the tra­di­tion­al time to start plant­i­ng peas but as we approach anoth­er pres­i­den­tial elec­tion let’s take a look at the man who was our first president.

First, there is the myth about the cher­ry tree, which could be true, Wash­ing­ton grew up on a farm, but true or not the sto­ry has become part of our nation­al mythology.

It goes like this:

Young George was giv­en a hatch­et for his sixth birth­day. Anx­ious to try it out he chopped down a cher­ry tree. His father was not hap­py and asked George what hap­pened. Young George famous­ly answered, “I can not tell a lie Pa, I cut down the cher­ry tree.” His father was so proud of his son for telling the truth that he for­gave him for cut­ting down the tree. This is why we eat cher­ry pie on Washington’s birth­day and val­ue truth telling in our lead­ers per­haps espe­cial­ly after they’ve made a mistake. 

George Wash­ing­ton was not a per­fect man.  He owned slaves know­ing it was wrong and only freed them in his will after his death. He was not as edu­cat­ed as many of his com­pa­tri­ots but he was mod­est enough to sur­round him­self with men who knew more than he did as advi­sors. He was both a rugged fron­tiers­man who trav­eled the coun­try on horse­back as well as an eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry gen­tle­man who gained the respect of Euro­pean heads of State. He was a uni­fi­er who worked hard to unite diverse for­mer colonies into one great nation.

As a gen­er­al in the army he did not sit back from the fray but fought along­side his men. As a pres­i­dent, he was very pop­u­lar and could have eas­i­ly seized pow­er for him­self but instead he served two terms and then set the mold for our peace­ful tran­si­tion of pow­er.  His pres­i­den­cy is worth celebrating.

Link to: The His­to­ry of President’s Day

Link to: Pres­i­den­tial, Wash­ing­ton Post Pod­cast with Lil­lian Cunningham

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Categories: History, Island Senior

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