Happy Presidents’ Day!

Presidents’ Day was originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington’s birthday. The shift from Washington’s birthday to Presidents’ Day began in the late 1960s when Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act”, which officially moved the holiday to the third Monday in February.

Few things genuinely annoyed President Ronald Reagan. One of them was criticism of his wife, Nancy; another was men telling off-color jokes when a woman was present. He hated being saddled with a schedule so crowded that he ended up running late and making people wait for him. He detested missing dessert.

But during his White House years, nothing seemed to irritate him as much as when people said he had “become” president. Whenever he heard that, he always interrupted the speaker to firmly say: “No, I didn’t become president. I was elected to the job, and it’s only temporary. In some countries, a person becomes a king or queen, but not here.”

That seems an especially timely message as we celebrate Presidents Day.

Originally created 135 years ago to commemorate George Washington, Presidents Day was modified in 1971 to include recognition of Abraham Lincoln and be part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which would give government workers a three-day weekend. Because both Washington and Lincoln were born in February, it was decided that the holiday should be on the third Monday in February every year.

Washington and Lincoln were not the only presidents with February birthdays. There were two others, but only one in the 20th century. The nation’s ninth president, William Henry Harrison, who served in office a mere 31 days, was also born in February (1773).

Perhaps the February-born president with the greatest modern-day impact was Reagan. He entered the world on February 6, 1911, and after a successful career as a radio broadcaster, movie star, and governor of California, would eventually be admiringly and rightfully described as “transformational” by no less a Democratic icon than President Barack Obama.

And indeed, that he was.

As proud as Reagan was of being twice chosen by his fellow citizens, he never felt he was entitled to the presidency. He was not intimidated by the role, but truth to tell, seemed a bit in awe of it. Every once in a while, it showed. I remember one day after a photo session in the Oval Office, he was standing at the Resolute Desk and looking out the windows onto the South Lawn of the White House.

He had a distant stare and seemed a million miles away. I asked him if everything was all right. He snapped back and said: “Oh, yes. For some reason, I was just thinking about some of the other fellas who have been in this office and hope that I’m worthy of it.”

On his last day as chief White House spokesman, Larry Speakes came to say goodbye and told Reagan that he never thought a kid from a small town in Mississippi would ever be in the Oval Office talking to the president of the United States, to which Reagan replied: “Imagine how a kid from a small town in Illinois feels.”

While he may not have felt destined or chosen by some higher power to serve as president, Reagan wanted the job because he cared deeply about America. He thought he had something to contribute to the country. Even when polls showed him comfortably ahead in both 1980 and 1984, he worked hard as a candidate, crisscrossing the country, listening to voters and speaking about what he wanted to accomplish. It never occurred to him to take anything for granted. He had the greatest respect for our democratic process and viewed it as his responsibility as a candidate to not only debate his opponent (more than once) but also to appear before the voters.

And when he did, Reagan’s rallies were neither a Festivus-esque airing of grievances against political opponents nor an attack on long-standing pillars of democracy. Rather, Reagan’s campaign events were uplifting celebrations of the unique greatness of America and offered an optimistic vision of what lay ahead. He spoke clearly and passionately about the country he envisioned, a shining city on a hill, and how he wanted to get there.

Reagan never mocked or attacked those who disagreed with him, nor did he curse. In 1984, when he was seeking a second term, Reagan did not take credit for what had been accomplished but instead praised the American people. Reagan’s rallies left voters inspired and hopeful, not angry or blaming.

Clearly, times have changed. As a country, we have moved on. Whether to a better place or not is an open question. As we mark Presidents Day and think of the people who have served, are serving, and those who may one day serve, it is worth remembering Ronald Reagan and how he viewed that hallowed office.

If you are one of the 80 Million plus Deplorables “Happy Fraud-In-Chief Day.”

If you feel disappointed, frustrated, or defeated by the way things seem to be going in our country, in honor of #throwbacktuesday, here is Clay Travis stunning CNN hosts when he says he believes in only two things completely: “The First Amendment and Boobs.”

This video will not only bring you hope and inspiration, but also the courage to keep going in the face of difficulties. As the popular saying goes, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and nothing brings us more joy than overcoming difficulties together.

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”  – George Washington

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