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March 4, 2014

RONN MOTT: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington

I remember when by edict the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were lumped into a single celebration called “Presidents Day.” I thought it was stupid then, and I still do.

George Washington, owner of a large plantation and one of the richest men in the colonies at the time of the American Revolution, set a standard so high very few presidents have been able to match. His decision to do only two terms as president was compared to the fact that he could have been a king, a dictator or anything he wanted. I guess what he wanted was to be a gentleman farmer and owner of Mount Vernon.

It was that way during the war. Some of the actions of the British troops and the Hessian troops angered him to no end because while they were supposed to be officered by gentlemen, he thought their actions proved otherwise. As an officer and leader of an army, he held himself to a high standard and expected his officers to follow his lead. It would be the same when he became the president of this new country with its new Constitution.

Abraham Lincoln was a travelling lawyer, served many clients, but one of his biggest was the Illinois Central Railroad. His campaign boasted he was a rail-splitter, wood chopper and a strong, young man. He was, in the measurement of the day, a successful lawyer and one that made quite a bit of money. (At his death, Lincoln had $65,000 in his account at the Springfield Marine Bank.) For years after his death they kept the ledger in a glass case in their lobby so all could see.  

By the time Lincoln came in as president (No. 16), the American president had to be a political mastermind and guide the country through a vast civil war. He had to be a politician with a master’s touch. He, of course, championed the movement to free all the slaves and his followers, upon his death, managed to do that very thing. He had only freed the slaves of those people who were in revolt against the government.

Would it hurt us to have two, three-day weekends that would honor our two greatest presidents? I don’t believe so. It is a thing that certainly is worthy of consideration. I would not expect the Congress that is in session now, and dumb as a box of rocks, is capable of getting this done. I suppose they would not even want to do it. I’m sure there are not very many who care, or know, that Abraham Lincoln was our first Republican president.   

Our neighbor to the north, Canada, gives its workers and everybody else a three-day weekend about once a month. Many times it commemorates something worthy of celebration and sometimes it is just a three-day weekend. I already know the Canadian system is better than ours because, on the whole, it does not breed such stupid politicians as we seem to be able to do.  

So, here it is, America. You salute everything that flips, flops and flies. How about a proper remembrance for our two greatest presidents?

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

 

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