Today is not Presidents' Day

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Today is not Presidents’ Day

February 16, 2015 - Jim Denison, PhD

Official Presidential portrait of George Washington, oil on canvas painted by Gilbert Stuart, 1797 (Credit: Gilbert Stuart/The White House Historical Association)

Most people think that today is a federal holiday officially designated Presidents’ Day.  Most people are wrong.

Confusion begins early in our story.  George Washington was born on February 11, 1732, according to the calendar then followed.  However, a different calendar was adopted in 1752, shifting his birthday to February 22.  Across the 19th century, Washington’s Birthday was celebrated with great patriotic fervor every year on February 22.

In 1968, the federal government, seeking to create more three-day federal weekends, passed the Uniform Holiday Bill.  This legislation moved Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday in February.  Ironically, this decision guaranteed that we would never celebrate Washington’s Birthday on his birthday, since the third Monday in February can never fall later than February 21.

In addition, many states were also celebrating Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday each February 12.  So they combined the two into today’s “Presidents’ Day,” but the federal government never changed its official designation.  As a result, today is a federal holiday called Washington’s Birthday on a day that can never be his birthday, celebrated by a name the federal government never recognized.  In practical use, Presidents’ Day has become a day to celebrate all our presidents, past and present.

But we’re not done with confusion regarding today’s holiday.  You see, America has had 43 presidents, but 44 presidencies.  Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, so he is counted chronologically as both the 22nd and 24th president.  So there’s a distinction between the presidency and the president.

It’s a distinction worth observing in spiritual terms.  Paul taught us to pray for our leaders, today and every day (1 Timothy 2:1-2). (Tweet this)  Peter instructed us to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him” (1 Peter 2:13-14).

These commands relate to the office, whoever its occupant may be.  You may be a strong supporter of President Obama, or you may be his most vociferous critic.  Either way, you are called to pray for him and follow his leadership.  The governing authorities for whom Paul called Timothy to pray included Emperor Nero, the ruler who had Paul beheaded.  The same Peter who taught us to be subject to human rulers refused to obey the Sanhedrin when it demanded that he cease preaching the gospel (Acts 4:19-21).

Whether you agree with your president and other elected leaders or not, you are to pray for them.  And you are to obey them unless such obedience requires disobedience to your Lord.  Obey your highest authority—men and women whenever you can, and God always. (Tweet this)

Have you prayed for President Obama yet today?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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