On Monday, we celebrated Presidents Day. Traditionally, this has been a commemoration of George Washington’s birthday. Some people see this as a commemoration of two birthdays, Washington’s (2/22) and Lincoln’s (2/12.) And many of us celebrate all the president’s on this day.
We celebrate Washington as the Father of Our Country. His example largely determined what the president should be and do. Earlier, he also reinforced the American notion of the army’s relationship with the government. He relinquished power and returned home after the Revolution was won (the English poet Byron praised him as “the Cincinnatus of the West.”) And he established the tradition, later cemented in the Constitution, of presidents seeking no more that two terms.
Lincoln led the nation through the Civil War and further defined what a president should be and do. And, even when it seemed he might not be re-elected to see the war through, he upheld the Constitution’s prescription for elections (“This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President elect, as to save the Union between
the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such grounds that he can not possibly save it afterwards.” – quoted in Lincoln by David Donald, p. 529)
Two other men who became president were also born in February. One was a revered president of the 20th century, the other a notable one of the 19th (and they happen to have been the two oldest at the time of their inaugurations.)
Whether you’re remembering one president, two presidents, or all the presidents, the best way is to learn more about them. There is no better place for this than the library. The Denton Public Library has books and videos for all ages about each of the 43 people who have served our country as chief executive. A good series of books for adults is The American Presidents published by Times books, and two good series for younger readers are Encyclopedia of Presidents
published by Children’s Press and Great American Presidents published by Chelsea House. Come by and check them out. And while you’re here, see what else is available.