George Washington Vital To America. Yet “Cancelled” Since 1968.

George Washington’s birthday, February 22, was a big deal when I grew up in Atlantic City.  Until 1971, all public schools, government offices, and banks were closed that day.  All stores and car dealerships were open with special celebration sales.

The Washington’s Birthday holiday was always on February 22, Washington’s actual birthday.  Every American then knew the day he was born.  When I taught history at our local community college, not one of my students knew that. 

I went to Richmond Avenue Elementary School in Atlantic City from 1955 to 1961.  For weeks before February 22, we were taught about both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s birthday was February 12, another once important date with no meaning today.  We rehearsed for presentations at special assemblies about them.  We celebrated George Washington for being the father of our country, and Abraham Lincoln for saving it with a a “rebirth in freedom” that freed black Americans from slavery.  We learned and sang patriotic songs like Yankee Doodle, America, This Is My Country, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Few Americans today under the age of 50 would recognize any of them.

During the weeks before February 22, the walls of the hallways of my Richmond Avenue Elementary School were covered with tributes to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  We had made most of them in class with crayons, watercolors, construction paper and doilies.  I particularly remember the care I used in cutting profiles of both  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln with black construction paper, and sticking them side-to-side on a background of white doily with “library paste” we made by mixing flour and water.  The daily newspapers were filled with full page ads from local stores and car dealerships promoting all sorts of outrageous  George Washington Day sales.  There were full page ads in the newspaper, and special signs in the  windows with drawings of both Washington and Lincoln.  Many depicted a young George Washington holding a hatchet in front of a cherry tree.

All that was gone when I returned from college in 1971.  In June of 1968, Democrat President Lyndon Johnson and Democratic super majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives passed the “Monday Holiday Act of 1968”.  It replaced Washington’s Birthday on February 22 with a new federal holiday now usually  called “Presidents Day” on the third Monday of February.  It also guaranteed that “Presidents Day” would never again fall on George Washington’s actual birthday on February 22.  The new law took effect in 1971.

That “Monday Holiday Act of 1968” also moved Memorial Day, often called “Decoration Day”, from May 30 to the last Monday in May.  It moved Columbus Day from October 12, the day Columbus first landed to America, to a meaningless second Monday in October.

It may be more than a coincidence that all this was done in 1968.  That was a year when it became obvious that America was falling apart.  In January of 1968, Communist forces in Vietnam humiliated the American army in with its “Tet Offensive”.  This exposed both the dishonesty and incompetence of America’s military leaders, and convinced many Americans that the war was lost, if not wrong to begin with.  Massive demonstrations against the American government because of the Vietnam War took place in cities and college campuses here and around the world.  In March, 1968, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, elected by a landslide just four years earlier, had become so disliked, that he announced he would not seek re-election.  In April of 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered.  Deadly and destructive riots broke out in America’s largest cities.  In June of 1968, Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was murdered in California after winning the Primary Election there.  In August, there were riots in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention there.  A few days later, Communist Russia invaded Czechoslovakia when America was too weak and divided to do anything about it.  The Bob Dylan song “A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall” was popular and many other popular songs used “rain” as a metaphor for the revolution that would soon take down America.

In 1968, America desperately needed a national hero, a national holiday, and a national purpose to bring our country together.  That is the year our President and Congress “cancelled” our February 22 George Washington holiday and replaced it with a meaningless three day “Presidents Weekend”.

At first, I was sure this was done by Communists and leftists who had been so successful in dividing and weakening America that year.  However, the Congressional Record of May 6, 1968 shows it was the Chamber of Commerce, big unions, and big corporations who lobbied hardest for the change.  Representatives of the Vermont ski industry testified that Vermont would make millions more each year if the Washington’s Birthday holiday became part of a perpetual three day weekend. Factory owners said they would save lots of money closing down for a holiday on Monday, rather than for a Washington’s Birthday in the middle of a week.

Click here for By George, IT IS Washington’s Birthday!, an article in Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives, Winter, 2004.

Russian Communist leader Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was on to something when he once remarked,  “The businessman (capitalist) will sell us the rope we will hang him with”.

It has now been more than fifty years since the “Presidents Day” three day weekend replaced  the February 22 holiday for George Washington’s Birthday.  During that time, both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were effectively erased from America’s memory.  February is now “Black History Month” in our schools. Any teacher of public school administrator will tell you there is little or no time to talk about either Washington or Lincoln.

Black History Month began as “Negro History Week” in the 1920’s.  It was created to counter the negative stereotypes created by the 1915 racist Hollywood movie “Birth of a Nation”.  That movie was used to suppress the votes of Black Americans and re-elect Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the 1916 elections.  Most black Americans at that time voted Republican.  “Negro History” week used the February 12 birthday of President Abraham Lincoln and the February 14 birthday of Frederick Douglass to present a week of programs explaining the contributions of black Americans to our country’s greatness.  In 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford endorsed expanding that one week program into Black History Month for the entire month of February.  That, together with observances of Martin Luther King Day in January had the effect of removing almost all teaching about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in our schools.  This is truly a national for both black and white Americans.

 George Washington was far more than a great American. His whole life was an example of how every American should live. Also his lifetime of achievements was so extraordinary.  There were many great men and women in American history.  However, George Washington is unique in that without him, there would not have been an America as we know it.  Today, very few Americans know that important truth.

George Washington grew up with hardship. His father died when Washington was 11 years old. Most property owned by George Washington’s father went to the children of his first wife–the half-brothers and sisters of George Washington.  George Washington had to quit school to work his family’s small farm while George Washington’s mother cared for his younger sister and three younger brothers.

At age 15, Washington made himself an apprentice to a land surveyor.  George Washington did not want to be a small farmer for his entire life.  When George Washington was growing up, the sale and development of large tracts of wilderness land to the west was the biggest business in Virginia.  However, that business was dominated by a handful of very wealthy landowners.  It was almost impossible for an outsider to join that club.  Yet as a teenager, George Washington realized that an outsider like him could succeed in those circles by becoming a land surveyor, getting paid with land instead of money, and learning the social skills of the insiders.  At age 15, George Washington left his family’s farm and became an “apprentice” for a land surveyor.  He worked for years without pay to become a master at that profession.   His work included  included taking many long and dangerous trips hundreds of miles into the wilderness. When he went into the surveying business for himself, he often agreed to get paid with land instead of money.  He then later sold that land for much larger profits.  

During this time, Washington constantly read books to give himself the equivalent of a college education. When he returned home, he dressed well and carefully rehearsed dancing, table manners, and dinner conversation so he could comfortably mix socially with the rich and powerful.

Because of his social and networking skills, Washington was put in command of  his local part-time, militia unit even though he lacked formal military training. Once again, Washington read books, learned from others, and taught himself.  Today, young people would say George Washington was the master of the “fake it ’till you make it” method of career advancement.

At age 21, Washington’s militia unit was sent to chase French soldiers away from what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This started an eight year war with France.

George Washington was also a victim of discrimination. Washington dreamed of a career as a general in the British army. Although Washington had proven himself to be a smart, brave and capable commander, he was denied promotion in the British army because he was an American, a mere colonial. He lacked family and political connections in England.

Washington overcame discrimination by the British government by achieving success in business–and marriage.  After being rejected by the British army, Washington applied innovative technical, business, and marketing skills to improve the productivity, profitability, and marketing of various businesses as well as his farm.  At age 26, George Washington married Martha Custis, a wealthy widow with business management skills and experience. During the next 10 years, the two expanded their farms and also started many successful new businesses that included fishing fleets, flour mills, cloth and whisky production.

During this time, Washington also began to resent British taxes and laws that put unfair burdens on his businesses, and gave unfair advantages to political insiders in England. When Americans in Boston rebelled against those same laws and taxes, Washington supported them.? In 1775, the Continental Congress put Washington in command of its new Continental Army.

When the British offered freedom to American slaves who joined them, some of Washington’s slaves took that offer.  This profoundly affected Washington. Until then, Washington thought he had treated his slaves fairly and that his slave were loyal to him.  Now, Washington realized that black Americans loved freedom as much as whites.  After the war, Washington supported laws and provisions in the Constitution to limit and gradually end slavery. He freed his own slaves when he died.

As commander of America’s first army, Washington developed a uniquely American management style. Unlike the British, Washington appointed and dismissed his commanders only on talent and  performance. When Washington introduced a new plan or idea, he usually pretended it was the suggestion of someone else so his junior officers would give their honest opinions. When plans failed, Washington took full responsibility. When the cause seemed hopeless, Washington persisted through all eight years of the war.

There were times during the was when Washington’s solders wanted to march on Congress and take over the government. Washington repeatedly stopped them. When his soldiers asked Washington to run the country as a king or dictator, he refused.

After the war, the thirteen newly independent states almost ruined the economy by taxing goods brought in from other American states.George Washington suggested changes to the Articles of Confederation to stop this. Washington then presided over the Constitutional Convention? in Philadelphia in 1776.

Washington was first elected President in 1788.??? He was elected for another four year terms in 1992.?? He was urged to run for a third term in 1796, but Washington stepped down after two terms.

How much of this story did you and your children learn during President’s Day this year? Why has this story of George Washington been systematically erased from our national memory? Short answer:? Google “Yuri Bezmenov”, “active measures” or “ideological subversion” or search these words on YouTube.? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqSV72VNnV0

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