By David Joel Miller.
Which important people are you celebrating today?
Todays is a holiday here in the United States of America. We are celebrating the birthdays of two of our more famous American Presidents. More on that to come. But it occurs to me that many of you readers are all over the world in countries other than the United States and that probably you are not celebrating the same two important people we are. I wanted to include all of you in my thoughts about why some people become important and get days to celebrate them.
Personally I think that there are a lot of deserving people who have not gotten a day. Why this day and these two people? This day, called Presidents Day here in the United States is to celebrate two past presidents, Mr.’s Washington and Lincoln, sort of, some times.
I suppose that one reason I am musing about this thing called presidents day and how a particular president does or does not get a day has to do with a client who came to see me recently. This particular client was feeling down because at their age, they were feeling that they had not accomplished all that much. From my perspective this person is relatively young, but then these days everyone is looking young to me. Lest you get any wrong ideas that I am violating confidentiality here and talking about a client, keep in mind that this same conversation has taken place a number of times with a number of clients.
Frankly I am disposed to think I have had this kind of conversation with myself going on in my head for a good long time also. I suspect many of you, if you are inclined to be honest about this, have had these thoughts. Something to the effect “Why am I not more important?” Many of us think from time to time that we should have accomplished more, done more with our lives, than we have.
Let’s take a look at the accomplishments of the presidents.
President’s day did not start out as president’s day. Since this is a day ostensibly to celebrate presidents of the United States you would think all the 50 states would celebrate the same people on this day. No such luck.
Originally this all started with an observance of Washington’s Birthday. George Washington being the founder of this country certainly seems entitled to a holiday. Last year my blog was read in 180 different countries. There are certainly other countries in existence from which no one read my blog, but we will pretend that those countries do not matter for the purpose of celebrating a president’s day for the time being.
Presumably all of these countries each had a founding person of some sort. This puts Mr. Washington in a rather elite group of founding fathers of countries that still exist. My reading of history tells me there is a rather long list of countries that no longer exist so if all countries were included George Washington’s name would be part of a much larger group.
Washington was only the first of our presidents. To date we have had 44 presidents. Shortly we will begin the drama of selecting another person to be number 45.
As each president has come and gone there has been some support, at times large and at times miniscule, for a day devoted to that president. Had we succumbed to this possibility there would be at this point some 20% of the possible work days devoted to holidays for presidents. These holidays, 20% of all work days holidays, devoted to presidents does not include all the other people and events we mark with holidays.
Some presidents clearly had to be left out of getting a holiday.
Who would be our second choice for a holiday devoted to a president? Turns out the answer to that question was far from agreed upon. Lincoln was certainly a contender. Ask anyone to name three or four presidents of the United States who are no longer with us, and Lincolns name probably makes the list. A few people seem to know the name of the current or the last couple of presidents but before that many people get it wrong.
If Washington was the first president what number president was Benjamin Franklin?
The correct answer to that would be that he was not president. Neither were a lot of those other people who the kids guess these days.
Some states made Lincolns birthday a holiday also. But the number in that line is far smaller than those who celebrate Washington’s Birthday. Since both of those men were born in February that month was getting crowded. The movement came about to just combine both these men’s birthdays and make it one presidents day.
There are a few states who still are not quite sure that Abraham Lincoln was anyone to celebrate. So some of them opted to add Mr. Thomas Jefferson to the list of people we celebrate on president’s day. This seems reasonable. Jefferson was a man of many accomplishments. He did some writing, something dear to my heart. I am told that he was one of the collaborators on the Declaration of Independence. His first draft having been improved by some editing from Mr. Franklin. His book collection ended up as a cornerstone of the Library of Congress.
Add all this up and I can see why Mr. Jefferson should deserve a holiday. I also can see why some places think three holidays for presidents were a bit much. Fast forward to the current 44 presidents and see the mess?
Personally I pay most attention to the holiday schedule here in California, the place I make my home. California is a very politically “ecumenical” state. Neither I nor my thesaurus can find another word that better fits this situation.
California also celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Cesar Chavez day, despite the fact that neither was elected president. It would seem that doing something good, rather than just being president, qualifies you to get a day in your honor. My calendar also reports that yesterday was Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday. I do not find any evidence that this is a holiday in any particular place.
The point of this little verbal expedition, aside from a historical digression?
If all those presidents, 44 to date, the thousands of governors, the legions of legislators, and all those other significant people do not get a memorial holiday. Aren’t you being just a little hard on yourself by thinking that you haven’t accomplished enough with your life?
Stop feeling down about what you haven’t gotten done so far in your life and go out there and make it the best, happiest life possible. Today I am celebrating my importance, at least to myself, along with celebrating and remembering the other people who have contributed to this country I live in. I am hoping you will join me today and take some time to celebrate your importance as a human being also.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books