From 1879 to 1968, George Washington’s birthday, February 22, was a Federal holiday — called, logically, “Washington’s Birthday.” Then, as part of a move to create more three-day weekends, Congress pegged it to the third Monday of the month and it became generally known, in much of the nation, as “President’s Day.” Which celebrates none with a focus on nothing, except, perhaps, end-of-model-year car sales.
It’s time for a nation-wide revival of Washington’s Birthday, to honor the man who kept a rag-tag army together and helped prevent a wholesale British takeover of the Colonies, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, and who, with natural humility, accepted a call to serve as our first president. And who became known, then and now, as “Father of His Country.”
Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr.,—founder and chairman of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom (www.GWIRF.org) —cites another, and timely, reason for support: “Today, more than ever, with religious persecution on the rise world-wide, Washington’s unequivocal approach should be the gold standard.”
Loeb reminds us—or instructs us, because few of us of ever have ever known—that, in Washington’s “Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport,” August 18, 1790, he defined religious faith as the “inherent natural right” of everyone and elaborated: “Happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
Never heard any of this, before? It’s time to bring back “Washington’s Birthday” not only to honor the man, but as the perfect occasion to recognize and acknowledge religious inclusiveness.