The federal holiday observed on the third Monday in February is officially designated by law as Washington's Birthday, but in recent years we have come to know it as Presidents Day. The annual observance of Presidents Day provides an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on our country’s history and on the 43 men who have served in our nation’s highest office.
by Congressman Michael Turner
George Washington’s birthday, February 22, was considered a significant occasion even before Congress made the anniversary of his birth one of America’s first recognized holidays in 1885. The Father of our Country enjoyed an extraordinarily high level of respect and affection from his fellow countrymen, dating back to his heroic actions in the Revolutionary War against the British. Henry Lee, a congressman from Virginia who served in the Continental Army under Washington, described our first President as a man who was “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Each year, the United States Senate commemorates Washington’s Birthday with a reading of his Farewell Address to the people of the United States, a custom that has continued for over a century.
The federal holiday observed on the third Monday in February is officially designated by law as Washington's Birthday, but in recent years we have come to know it as Presidents Day. The annual observance of Presidents Day provides an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on our country’s history and on the 43 men who have served in our nation’s highest office. Seven of Washington’s presidential successors are natives of the Buckeye State: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding.
In 2005, Congress passed with my support the Presidential One-Dollar Coin Act, a law that provides an opportunity to educate adults and children about our history and the Presidents who served our country. The Presidential One-Dollar Coin Act redesigned the face of the one-dollar coin to honor each of our American Presidents in the order in which they served, with a new design appearing every three months. The reverse of the coin bears an image of the Statue of Liberty.
In 2007, I voted to restore to the face of the dollar coin the words "In God We Trust". The first eight coins in the series, minted in 2007 and 2008, relegated the words of our national motto to a less prominent place on the edge of the coin. Beginning with the William Henry Harrison Presidential One-Dollar Coin, issued in 2009, the words “In God We Trust” were returned to their proper place of prominence on the front of the coin, with the Latin phrase "E Pluribus Unum" (“Out of many, One”) inscribed on the edge of the coin.
It is my hope that the Presidential One-Dollar coin series will generate enthusiasm not just with coin collectors, but will also become an important educational tool for students and schoolteachers. All of us can take pride in the history of our country and appreciate the important role that uniquely American holidays like Washington’s Birthday present in teaching our children about our Nation's heritage.