- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2001

As the nation prepares to celebrate Presidents Day with bed linen purchases and no-interest-down furniture sales, two members of Congress want to return the generic holiday to its original intent: honoring the birth of the nation's first president, George Washington.
Republican Reps. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland and Tom Tancredo of Colorado say the holiday was not meant to honor all presidents. Mr. Tancredo said he realized the holiday had turned into just another day to go shopping when he heard a radio commercial for a car dealership advertising its Presidents Day sale.
Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Tancredo introduced a bill last week that would rename the federal holiday that falls on the third Monday of February as George Washington's Birthday. The Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act would also require the president to issue a yearly proclamation recognizing and honoring the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday
"Our nation has had a number of great presidents, but none is greater than our first, George Washington," Mr. Tancredo said.
"This bill reiterates that George Washington stands alone as the first president of the United States, and thus he should be properly honored," Mr. Bartlett said. "Use of the term 'Presidents Day' insults the memory and denigrates the contributions of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln."
The nation has observed George Washington's birthday since 1879, when Congress designated it as one of five holidays observed in the District of Columbia. It became a federal holiday in 1885 when President Chester A. Arthur signed it into law.
That changed in 1971, when President Nixon issued a non-binding proclamation renaming the federal holiday Presidents Day to honor Mr. Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12, and all past presidents.
However, Congress has never acknowledged the change with legislation, and the holiday name is not set by law.
"The framers of the Constitution may have created the office of the president, but George Washington created the presidency and infused it with the power to stand as a symbol of America's awesome potential," Mr. Tancredo said.
He said his legislation would "help ensure that the true meaning of the holiday our nation observes in February is not lost."
"When all presidents are honored, … the result is a "generic Presidents Day that diminishes the accomplishments and contributions of our greatest presidents," said Lisa Wright, Mr. Bartlett's spokeswoman.
"I am not one who believes all presidents are created equally, except under the law," Mr. Tancredo said. "I am willing to say that some presidents' legacies are greater and more important than others, and Washington's was probably the greatest."
The measure was introduced last session by Mr. Bartlett and set for passage but was blocked by Rep. Ray LaHood, Illinois Republican, whose district includes one of Lincoln's homes.
By adding language to this measure that honors Lincoln, bill supporters are more encouraged it will be approved by Congress.
"We just celebrated Lincoln's birthday and no one paid attention to him. So why not try this approach where we focus on Washington and at the same time give more appropriate attention to Abraham Lincoln?" Mr. Tancredo said.

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