Honoring the Life and Work of the Country's First President
February 17, 2014 by Jake Butler
Today, and on the third Monday in February of every year, we take pause to celebrate the life and achievements of George Washington, the first President of the United States. It's also known as Presidents' Day in many areas, since Lincoln's birthday is also in February, but only Washington's Birthday is officially recognized by Congress – one of eleven permanent national holidays.
You might recall from history class that Washington's actual birthday is February 22, 1732. So why do we celebrate on the third Monday of February? Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968 in an effort to create more 3-day weekends for federal employees, with the hopes of boosting patriotic morale and providing economic benefits. It was shifted to the third Monday of February in 1971.
It wasn't until the 1980s that the idea of Presidents' Day started to take root. Since then, many states use the holiday to celebrate presidency in general, remembering and honoring all 43 men who have held the office.
But still, it's Washington that we recognize as the Father of our Country. It's his stories that live on more than 200 years after his death. It's his character that inspires us and his actions that impact the office of the president even to this day.
As with Memorial Day and Veterans Day, this holiday affords us another opportunity to honor and thank our country's veterans and active service members. In 1782, Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, the first award of its kind available to common service members. It would later be resurrected on his 200th birthday and is still in use today, although you probably know it as the Purple Heart.
So what's your favorite piece of Washington's story? Chopping down his father's cherry tree? Crossing the Delaware River? Pressing on through the harsh winter of 1777 at Valley Forge? Mount Rushmore? The Washington Monument? Tell us about it in the comment section below.