By Cooper Aspegren:
During the month of February, it’s Valentine’s Day that gets all the attention, with the majority of Americans using the holiday to cherish their significant other and to celebrate the idea of romance. But why does romance need a special day? Shouldn’t it be celebrated every day of the year? Rather, it’s Presidents who should have a special day in the middle of winter.
Presidents spend 365 days a year on the defensive, trying to do their best for Americans under constant critique and criticism. Presidents are at work twenty hours a day, seven days a week. They are under constant surveillance; almost every word a President utters ends up in the newspaper and on the Internet. If they spell potato “P-O-T-A-T-O-E” on national television, Americans regard them as national pariahs (it was in fact a vice president, Dan Quayle, who actually misspelled the word “potato”–and in the process likely sacrificed the re-election of George H.W. Bush). Presidents can’t go out for dinner or to the movies in a public theater without being scrutinized. As Ronald Reagan said it repeatedly, a president can’t “walk down the street to the corner drugstore and look at some magazines.” Every time a president exercises, it’s a media event. If a rabbit attacks a Presidents’ boat while he is fishing (an event that happened to 39th President Jimmy Carter), the President is regarded as weak and ineffectual.
And the stress! Presidents make the most difficult decisions, impacting millions of lives across the globe. We all know pressure and stress, from exam days, projects and sport events. I can’t imagine what a President must feel when he makes a decision, as there’s always someone who complains or, in the case of the other President Bush, throws a shoe at him. (Bush might find solace in the fact that, unlike President Taft, he did not find himself ducking from a thrown cabbage.)
For all that they do, we should set aside Presidents’ Day to remember and pay tribute to our past and present Commanders in Chief, famous and obscure, Lincoln-like and Buchanan-like. The 44 Presidents of the United States all served their nation at wartime and at peacetime, during times of economic strife and in periods of fiscal growth. Regardless of political differences between Republicans, Democrats and other parties, on Presidents’ Day, we should pause to honor these individuals for taking on the most difficult job in the world and, with the possible exception of Warren Harding, for satisfying their duties to the best of their abilities.
I’m not suggesting that we plant peanuts in the garden by T-9 in honor of President Carter, or that the theatre adapt Ronald Reagan movies, like “Bedtime for Bonzo” and “Knute Rockne: All American,” into plays. Though it might be nice if P.E. teachers taught students how to juggle clubs, in honor of 20th President James Garfield, who used this weight-lifting exercise to build up his arm muscles.
As a member of the president-idolizing minority, I think we should find some way to commemorate Presidents’ Day, something more than just a day off from school. I might be biased, given that I share a birthday with a president. But despite the fact that they occasionally commit questionable, unreasonable and shameful acts, Presidents do deserve our appreciation and respect—at least one day a year.