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Feb. 21, 2005

The true story behind President’s Day

by Elena Pinsky, Page Editor
On the third Monday of every February, Montgomery County schools and administrative offices are closed in observance of President's Day. To students, this day may only be a welcome extension to the weekend because few know the true origins of this holiday. In fact, over time, the holiday has transformed from one that commemorates the birthday of former President George Washington to one that honors all past American presidents.

While the holiday bears the name President's Day, federal law defines the day as the official celebration of Washington's birthday. According to www.usinfo.pl , early in the twentieth century, both Feb. 22 and Feb. 12, the birthdays of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, respectively, were set aside as national holidays. According to www.infoplease.com , in 1968, in an attempt to regulate the calendar of federal holidays, Congress passed a law changing the official observation of Washington's birthday from Feb. 22 to the third Monday in February, but denied a proposal to observe Lincoln's birthday on that day as well.

An article written by Richard Benedetto in USA Today explains that in 1971, President Nixon issued a Presidential proclamation to designate the third Monday in February as "President's Day” to honor all past American presidents, not just Washington. While the proclamation did not technically override the power of the previous Congressional law that was still intact, the public responded to the concept of a day honoring all presidents. By convention, the day has come to be referred to as President's Day.



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