1. It’s Monday, February 20, 2017. It’s the 90th birthday of Sidney Poitier, the 75th birthday of Mitch McConnell and the 50th birthday of Lili Taylor.
Happy birthday, Sidney and Lili!
2. It’s Presidents Day. (That, my students should know by now, is AP style for the holiday)
When I was managing staff schedules at CNNMoney, I diminished the holiday status of Presidents Day.
This did not sit well with a young woman who worked in the newsroom. She believed Presidents Day to be an important holiday and protested.
The fact is, I usually like the idea. I have been totally into Presidents of the United States.
For proof, look at the picture at the top of this.
Yes, that’s a bookshelf in my house. Yes, I’ve read every one of those books, plus some out of the photo. It took me about a decade.
When I was 7 years old, I wanted to be president. I knew President Kennedy’s inauguration speech by heart.
I dreamed of visiting the White House. I was 11 when my family went there. I took my kids there when they were little.
3. This day has a peculiar past.
First off, technically, the official federal designation for this holiday is Washington’s Birthday.
If there was a calendar in the colonial Virginia room where George Washington was born, it read Feb. 11, 1731. That’s because it would be another 21 years before Britain and its colonies would adopt the Gregorian calendar, which added 11 days to the calendar and changed the start of a year to Jan. 1 from March 25.
I’m bummed because I have to add an hour to the time of my birth certificate to celebrate my exact moment of birth. That’s because when I was born, my birthday was in Eastern Standard Time. Now, it’s in Daylight Time, which means everything is an hour ahead.
When he turned 21 in 1753, his birthday changed to Feb. 22 and the year of his birth changed to 1732. That really has to stink.
So Washington’s Birthday – thanks to Pope Gregory XIII, Lord Chesterfield and, of course, his mother, Mary Ball Washington – became Feb. 22.
And that’s when we celebrated it for nearly two centuries of American history.
Then there was Abraham Lincoln. His birthday has always been Feb. 12, 1809. But it wasn’t celebrated everywhere in the United States – you can imagine there’s still the occasional Southerner or any traitor with a Confederate sticker on his pickup who spits on the ground every Feb. 12.
So, when I was in grade school, we got a day off for Lincoln’s Birthday and a day off for Washington’s Birthday ten days later.
I imagine that didn’t sit well with businesses, which also closed down for two holidays. And since those dates changed every year, and were 10 days apart, it was hard for people with the day off to make much of them.
So, in the late 1960s, someone in Congress proposed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The intention was to make Washington’s Birthday the third Monday in February – it also established Memorial, Columbus and Veterans Days as Monday holidays, although Veterans Day got put back as Nov. 11 in the late 1970s.
There was initially some intent to name the Washington’s Birthday holiday Presidents Day to get rid of that Lincoln day. Those Southerners probably scuttled that from the legislation, but the idea stuck for some reason.
So let’s go over this: What we now have is an official holiday called Washington’s Birthday that everybody knows as Presidents Day and commemorates not just Washington and Lincoln but the other 43 as well.
4. And that’s why this one’s hard to celebrate.
I’m proud to celebrate Washington and Lincoln. I’m proud to celebrate Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.
I’m happy to celebrate Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
I don’t mind celebrating the Adamses and the Harrisons. And I’ll respect almost all the others – even the Bushes and Reagan, who I opposed throughout their awful presidencies, but never doubted their patriotism.
There’s two I can’t stomach. One is Nixon – never did I think this country come up with a president as evil as that miserable bastard.
But Nixon is a benign genius next to Trump.
This Presidents Day feels more as though a malevolent foreign power has occupied the White House. And, given all the signs of Russian interference and influence, maybe it has.
So my 30-song Presidents Day iTunes playlist – with “What Did Washington Say” by Lou Monte, “James K. Polk” by They Might Be Giants and “They Like Ike” from the musical “Call Me Madam” – is going unplayed today.
There’s not a lot to celebrate today. And there won’t be until this blight on one of history’s most revered institutions – the presidency of the United States – is gone.