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Presidents’ Day allows us to honor any president

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As a chronic Protestant, I did not celebrate Presidents’ Day. I did not favor the creation of Presidents’ Day but no one asked for my opinion at the time. Since they didn’t hold public hearings, I’ve lost all hope of being asked so I am now breaking my silence.

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Even though I think that generic drugs are great, I wouldn’t extend this generic business to presidents and that’s exactly what the creators of Presidents’ Day did.

For those of you younger than 43 years, before 1971, we used to have Lincoln’s Day and Washington’s Day. The two holidays recognized the two presidents that warranted bipartisan universal admiration.

But with the passage of the National Monday Holiday Act, we got Presidents’ Day. Now we can honor any president, which means we honor no one. By having one Presidents’ Day, we have now decided that all presidents are equal. It may be politically correct, even though historically wrong.

Both the Republicans and Democrats should have risen in protest when Presidents’ Day was first proposed.

For Republicans, Democratic presidents like Barack Obama and Grover Cleveland are revered equally with Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. For Democrats, Republican presidents like Warren Harding and Ulysses S. Grant are honored with Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. It’s a travesty for both parties.

All we did with the National Monday Holiday Act was convert the honoring of presidents into a major shopping holiday. It looks like something retailers would dream up. I think Walmart would sell out Roosevelt and Reagan at the drop of a buck.

Presidents’ Day enables us to neglect the great presidents and choose the ones that best fit our ideology.

The hawks might choose Andrew Jackson for beating the British in the Battle New Orleans in the War of 1812, or James K. Polk for waging the Mexican War and stealing half of Mexico, or McKinley who waged the Spanish-American War and grabbed Cuba and the Philippines, or Teddy Roosevelt, who loved war but never had one of his own.

The gullible folks would most likely pick Grant and Harding. Even though they did not benefit personally from scandals, they made the mistake of thinking that their friends were their friends.

In the Grant administration, we had gold scandals, whiskey rings and robbing of the Indian bureau. Harding’s friends gave away the Teapot Dome oil and ran amuck in the Justice and Veterans’ bureaus.

For the more intellectual, the choice of presidents would be Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, all of whom were greater thinkers than presidents.

Jefferson got a huge memorial out of the deal but James Madison, the father of the U. S. Constitution, didn’t even get a shrub planted in his honor. As for Wilson, there was no monument for proposing a League of Nations 30 years ahead of its time.

The mediocre are also entitled to representation. At least that was the main argument offered in 1970 by Sen. Roman Hruska for confirming G. Harrold Carswell for the Supreme Court

The top choice for the mediocre is James Buchanan, who fiddled while the Republic disintegrated into the Civil War. Calvin Coolidge of Plymouth Notch, Vt., was no mental giant but he concealed it by not speaking. We could all benefit from his example.

In the future, we must be on guard. If a new Mount Rushmore is proposed to include all presidents, with Washington and Lincoln placed next to the likes of Zachary Taylor and Harding, we must at least demand public hearings.

Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and a retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email him at ndmatters@q.com.

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Lloyd Omdahl
Omdahl is former North Dakota lieutenant governor and a retired University of North Dakota political science teacher.
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