Celebrating George Washington's Birth Day
On February 22, 1732, Mary Ball Washington gave birth to a baby boy who was destined to change the course of a nation. Now almost three centuries later the influence of this one life has impacted countless millions. Earning the informal title "Father of his Country", George Washington has been held in such high esteem that significant celebrations were proclaimed by presidents, governors, and mayors across the land. Most of the celebrations included the reading of Washington’s Farewell Address, one of the most powerful and meaningful political speeches ever given.
For example, during Abraham Lincoln’s administration he recommended to the general public that "they assemble in their customary places of meeting for public solemnities on the 22d day of February instant and celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Father of this Country by causing to be read to them his immortal Farewell Address.”1
Lincoln likewise "requested to direct that orders be issued for the reading to the Army and Navy of the United States of the Farewell Address of George Washington, or such parts thereof as he may select, on the 22d day of February instant.”2
On February 22, 1888, Senator John Ingalls of Kansas became the first senator to read George Washington’s Farewell Address before the Senate. By 1893, the reading had become a regular annual event and began to be officially recorded on the Senate record. This continues to be an annual tradition with the assignment alternating between the two political parties. At the conclusion of each reading, the appointed senator inscribes his or her name in a black, leather-bound book maintained by the secretary of the Senate.” Click here to see the Senate record including each senator who has read and signed their names in this book.
On February 22, 1982 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed "...as a Day of National Celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington. I urge the people of the United States, in their homes, schools, and places of work, to join me in commemorating the birth of George Washington by reflecting on the character and accomplishments of this great man and his incalculable contributions to the establishment of this Nation. Let us rededicate ourselves to the fulfillment of his ideals and his faith in the people and resources of the United States.”3
Washington's Birthday became an official national holiday on January 31, 1879. This holiday was later moved to the third Monday in February by an act of congress. However, the name of the holiday was never officially changed. Even though it is common to refer to this holiday as "President's Day", the official name of the holiday is still "Washington's Birthday".4
In recent years many marketers have used the informal title of "Presidents Day" which has drawn less attention to George Washington and the incredible legacy he left, but his wisdom and example live on if we allow them to. Will you take a few minutes as a family and read or reread his farewell address? You may be amazed by what you read.