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Hancock Library News

According to all the blizzard of furniture, mattress, appliance, and auto ads in the newspapers and on TV, Monday is Presidents Day and yes, the Library will be closed for this holiday.

The official federal holiday designation by act of Congress in 1971 and signed by President Nixon is that the third Monday in February shall be set aside to celebrate the birth of the "father of our country" and first president, George Washington.

Prior to 1971, the holiday was celebrated on Feb. 22, Washington's actual birthday. But it was moved to the third Monday in February to create a three-day winter weekend and sadly, the holiday has morphed into "President's Day" and the recognition or celebration of Washington's contributions to American history have nearly disappeared.

Abraham Lincoln was also shortchanged when Washington's Birthday was moved to the third Monday in February. Formerly Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, was also a legal holiday in many states School kids loved Washington and Lincoln. They got both of their birthdays off from school. Actually my daughter in Connecticut, who works for the state of Connecticut, still does get Lincoln's birthday off—although the school kids do not-lucky girl.

When I was growing up, the school days leading up to those birthdays were full of lessons on the contributions of both men. For Lincoln, his courageous role in ending slavery and in country school I was required to memorize "The Gettysburg Address", all 272 words — you know, "Four score and seven years ago ... "

 To honor George Washington, we were taught the value of honesty through the mythical chopping-down-the-cherry-tree tale and extolled the bravery, sacrifices and suffering of his men during the bitter winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and how the general knelt in the snow to ask for divine help. The print of the famous painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware." was always prominently displayed and we also had the picture of Lincoln seated that is the centerpiece of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Since Congress created the three-day weekend, Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays have melded into one and it is called "Presidents Day." The result: The real reason for the holidays in the first place has sometimes been forgotten. That's too bad. Let's remember them through their words.

Abraham Lincoln:

• "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

George Washington:

• "Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest."

• "I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."

These are words we can learn from. Happy birthday, Mr. Presidents.

See ya at the Library!