Presidents’ Day is a state and federal holiday celebrated this year on Monday, February 20th to honor the birthday of our nation’s founder, George Washington. The holiday goes all the way back to 1885 and is still referred to as “Washington’s Birthday.” Although his birthday was actually February 22nd, it is always celebrated on the 3rd Monday of February after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed in 1971 to allow for 3-day weekends for the nation’s workers.
While many people think of Presidents’ Day as a commercial holiday, deluged with commercial advertising to create more commerce, it’s important that we remember from where we came. George Washington was one of the most important figures in the founding of this country and President’s Day is a way to pay homage to his life and where we are today, because of the role he played.
Born in 1732, George Washington served as the Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, which lasted from 1775 to 1783. In that role, he was victorious in establishing the colonial forces as the victors over the well-trained British Army. Prior to that role, he served in the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763). In 1787, he was elected president of the convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution and two years later, became the first president of the United States, serving two terms: (1789 – 1797). He died at the age of 67 at his Virginia plantation, Mt. Vernon three years after ending his second term. His legacy included his attributes of strength, integrity and national purpose.
Some interesting facts about George Washington:
- His only trip outside the borders of America was in 1751 when he accompanied his half-brother, Lawrence, to Barbados. Although his brother’s tuberculosis improved from the warm climate, George contracted small pox which permanently scarred his face. This is apparent in portraits of Washington that we see today.
- One of Washington’s first roles in the military was taking on the role of Commander of the Virginia militia in 1752, even though he had no previous military experience. He rapidly gained experience by leading troops in the French and Indian War and eventually was put in charge of all of Virginia’s militia forces. In 1759, he was elected to Virginia’s House of Burgesses, serving until 1774.
- Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, who was a widow at the time with two children. The couple never had any children of their own.
- The war against the British lasted for 8 years but there were few military wins for the Americans during that time.
- Washington’s troops were poorly trained and had scant supplies – often lacking food, ammunition and it is said, shoes, during the winter.
- Washington’s ability to motivate them led to the ultimate victory in the Revolutionary War when, with the aid of the French, the Continental Forces captured the British troops fighting under British General Cornwallis in Yorktown, Virginia, ending the war for independence and making General Washington a national hero.
- George Washington was inaugurated as President at the age of 57 on April 30, 1789 in New York City and lived in both New York and Philadelphia during his presidency, as the White House was not yet built in Washington, D.C.
- In his farewell address, Washington urged the new nation to maintain the highest standards, domestically, and to keep involvement with foreign powers to a minimum. That address is still read each February in the U.S. Senate to commemorate Washington’s birthday.
- Today, his face is seen on the dollar bill and the quarter, more than 200 years after his death.
- At the time of his death in 1799, George Washington owned 300 slaves. However, during his years in office, he became opposed to slavery and – long before President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, willed that his slaves been freed at the time of his wife’s passing.
Pat Kramer, aka “Writer For Hire,” is a business writer, ghostwriter and contributing writer to Crescenta Valley Weekly. Read more at: www.writerpatkramer.com.