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George Washington (#1) was born February 22, 1732. The celebration of his birthday became Presidents Day, the third Monday of February, which became a celebration of Washington and Abraham Lincoln (#16), which morphed into a celebration of all of our presidents, which--in my opinion--should actually be a celebration of the institution of the presidency and its original intent. 

No president was revered in his day and after as Washington was and is. He was an American hero, even if he never actually chopped down a cherry tree, even if his teeth were not made of wood. He epitomized the original intent of the presidency. A mediator who lives in a big white house. This is, of course, ignoring the question, should a slave holder be entitled to a day in his honor? 

(As an aside, New York City was the capital during Washington's initial term and he lived on Cherry Street. He then moved to Philadelphia after Thomas Jefferson (#3) and Alexander Hamilton orchestrated a deal to relocate the capitol close to Virginia, with a ten-year stop in Philadelphia. The White House only gained its name after it was mostly destroyed during the War of 1812 and was painted white to hide burn marks, although some say this is a myth.)

Of course, Washington had his detractors. Those who felt he, and then John Adams (#2), were jockeying to be an American King George, III and opposed the federal government making decisions for the States. But overall, as far as I can tell from my research, no one was as loved--or at least not spoken poorly about in public--as our first president. 

But what of other presidents? Should Andrew Jackson (#7) and his Trail of Tears be celebrated alongside Franklin Delano Roosevelt (#32) and the New Deal? Does Martin Van Buren (#8) and the Panic of 1837 deserve to share a day with Harry S. Truman (#33) and the Marshall Plan? Does Andrew Johnson (#17), who was impeached, William Henry Harrison (#9), who died after one month in office, Richard Nixon (#37), who was a crook, and George W. Bush (#43), who started the Iraq War, get to be honored along with Ronald Reagan (#40)(during his first term)? Does James Buchanan (#15), whose ineptness led to the Civil War, deserve to be recognized at the same time as Abraham Lincoln (#16)? Donald Trump (#45) together with Barack Obama (#44)? I think not.

So let's redefine--again--the meaning of Presidents Day. While we can recognize our presidents and honor those we feel did worthy jobs of leading our nation, let's honor the original intent of the office of the presidency. Not to have another king, but to have a unifier. A leader who brings the country together, not despite all of our differences but because of them. A leader who believes in not asking what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. (John F. Kennedy, (#35) Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961). A president who believes America is most herself when she comes from a place of high moral principle and who believes America's purpose is "to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world." (George H.W. Bush, (#42), January 20, 1989).

Many of us feel defeated by the current tract of our country's policies and direction, and saddened by the lack of civility and acceptance of mean spiritedness. I have realized there are a minimum of two things I can do. One is to vote. The other is to be kind to every person I run across, hoping my kindness transcends to them and then to the next person they meet and the next person after that. Call it a Kindness Chain. 

So, that's what I am celebrating on this President's Day. The original intent of the office of the presidency: to unify and to make kinder the nation and gentler the face of the world. Please join me. Start your Kindness Chain today, and please vote.

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Joanne Lewis Blog