Washington's Birthday (Feb 22, 1732)

Today the markets are closed for the federal holiday marking Washington's Birthday. Since the elimination of a holiday on his actual birthdate in 1971 following congressional action in 1968 to move certain mid-week federal holidays to Mondays, the holiday (now on the third Monday in February) never falls later than February 21st .

Although Congress has never officially changed the name of the holiday from Washington's Birthday to President's Day, many calendars, schools, advertisements and media outlets now refer to it as such, causing many to believe that an official name-change has taken place. Moreover, some states have changed the title of their state holiday to President's Day, including California (states can create whatever holidays they want, and are not required to follow the federal model).

Presidential scholar Gleaves Whitney laments in this piece in today's National Review Online that the disappearance of Washington's Birthday has left Americans less educated about the qualities of the first president, and the selflessness for which he was well known. Particularly noteworthy was Washington's willingness to hand over the reigns of power after accomplishing his mission. For this he was widely known as the American Cincinnatus (Cincinnatus was a Roman farmer appointed supreme commander during the early republic, and returned to his farm sixteen days later after defeating the enemy).

Had Washington not possessed his admirable restraint and a belief in a limited government, the new nation might have wound up like the many states around the globe today headed by military dictators, and there would have been no markets to have been closed today in honor of his birthday.


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