Presidents Day allows us to honor any president
As a chronic protestant, I did not celebrate Presidents Day. I did not favor the creation of Presidents Day but no one asked for my opinion at the time. Since they didn’t hold public hearings, I’ve lost all hope of being asked so I am now breaking my silence.
Even though I think that generic drugs are great, I wouldn’t extend this generic business to presidents and that’s exactly what the creators of Presidents Day did.
For those of you who are younger than 43, we used to have Lincoln’s Day and Washington’s Day before 1971. The two holidays recognized the two presidents who warranted bipartisan universal admiration.
But with the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, we got Presidents Day. Now we can honor any president, which means we honor no one. By having one Presidents Day, we have now decided that all presidents are equal. It may be politically correct even though historically wrong.
Republicans and Democrats should have risen in protest when Presidents Day was first proposed.
For Republicans, Democratic presidents like Barack Obama and Grover Cleveland are revered equally with Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. For Democrats, Republican presidents like Warren Harding and Ulysses S. Grant are honored with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. It’s a travesty for both parties.
All we did with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was convert the honoring of presidents into a major shopping holiday. It looks like something retailers would dream up. I think Walmart would sell out Roosevelt and Reagan at the drop of a buck.
Presidents Day enables us to neglect the great presidents and choose the ones that best fit our ideology.
The hawks might choose: Andrew Jackson for beating the British in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812; James K. Polk for waging the Mexican War and stealing half of Mexico; McKinley, who waged the Spanish-American War and grabbed Cuba and the Philippines, or Theodore Roosevelt who loved war but never had one of his own.
The gullible folks would most likely pick Grant and Harding. Even though they did not benefit personally from scandals, they made the mistake of thinking that their friends were their friends.
With the Grant administration, we had gold scandals, whiskey rings and robbing of the Indian bureau. Harding’s friends gave away the Teapot Dome oil and ran amuck in the Justice and Veterans’ bureaus.
For the more intellectual, the choice of presidents would be Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, all of whom were great thinkers than presidents.
Jefferson got a huge memorial out of the deal but James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution, didn’t even get a shrub planted in his honor. As for Wilson, there was no monument for proposing a League of Nations 30 years ahead of its time.
The mediocre are also entitled to representation. At least that was the main argument offered in 1970 by Sen. Roman Hruska for confirming George Harrold Carswell for the Supreme Court
The top choice for the mediocre is James Buchanan, who fiddled while the Republic disintegrated into the Civil War. Calvin Coolidge of Plymouth Notch, Vt., was no mental giant but he concealed it by not speaking. We could all benefit from his example.
In the future, we must be on guard. If a new Mount Rushmore is proposed to include all presidents, with Washington and Lincoln placed next to the likes of Zachary Taylor and Warren Harding, we must at least demand public hearings.
(Lloyd Omdahl, of Grand Forks, is a former lieutenant governor, state tax commissioner and state budget director)