Greene County

Presidents Day: Whose birthday is it?

Presidents Day history

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - Happy Presidents Day, or should we say happy Monday Holiday Act of 1971,because it's not actually any president's birthday on February 17.

But February is the month that Washington, Lincoln, Harrison and Reagan were born.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site park guide Daniel Luther tells those who've gathered at the site how Presidents Day came to be and what part Andrew Johnson played.

In reality, it was established in 1879 to observe George Washington's birthday, and later was combined with Lincoln's birthday; but no president was born on this day. "There is no way that Washington's birthday, which is the official name of this holiday, ever falls actually on Washington's birthday," Luther says.

Presidents Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February; Washington's birthday is the 22nd. That was set up by Congress with the Monday Holiday Act of 1971.

But one tradition does live on -- the reading of Washington's farewell address on his birthday in Congress, something President Andrew Johnson did at the beginning of the Civil War.  "The timelessness of Washington's message, this going back to the
late 18th century, is that we needed to focus ourselves as a united people based on the fact that we are more when we work together than we are when we divide up and fight each other," Luther said.

It's something we all should ponder on this Presidents Day, plus the sacrifices made by all 43 presidents.

Here's another little-known fact: George Washington established the Purple Heart award when he was the commander-in-chief of our first military.

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