Thursday, February 16, 2012


On the heels of the throat gagging Valentine’s Day commercials, we now find ourselves in the throes of obnoxious car sales ads in honor of Presidents’ Day. Call me a Patriot (go ahead, I dare you), but I think we should actually celebrate the men for whom the day is meant to honor. Instead of a typical recital of what everyone SHOULD know about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I’d thought I’d offer some little facts as culled from a multitude of books on my “For Presidents Only” shelf.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. He became the first President of the United States and served from 1789 until 1797. He died on December 14, 1799. (As a personal piece of trivia, this particular portrait was rendered by Gilbert Stuart, a Rhode Islander such as myself, whose family's home is but a couple of miles from my own.)

George Washington is a joy of trivia and, as I read, revealed himself as someone who provides strong evidence that destiny exists. George came close to death no less than SEVEN times, all before the age of 30; the threats came from a myriad of sources…diseases, battle, and downright bizarre accidents. And yet, he survived, as if greater purposes awaited him.

When the Capitol was moved from New York to Philadelphia, Washington brought his slave, named Hercules, with him to serve as cook. He was, however, the only founding father to free his slaves.

Washington was the only president not to have served from Washington.

Under the heading of ridiculous, fun facts…at the moment of his inauguration, George possessed only one of his own teeth; he often wore dentures made of both human and animal choppers.

George Washington is the only president to be elected unanimously…electorally speaking.

And perhaps my favorite piece of trivia…as a farmer, Washington grew marijuana on his lands (for industrial purposes only, as hemp and soil stabilization…or so they say).

My favorite of George Washington quotes: “It’s wonderful what we can do if we’re always doing.”

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 and murdered by gunshot at the hands of John Wilkes Boothe on April 15, 1865. A ‘prairie lawyer’ who came to serve over one of the country’s most turbulent times, he proved himself to be a man of enormous conviction and a fanatical proponent of these United States. He is also considered one of the most popular presidents in the history of the nation, so there is a great deal known of him. Hopefully, a few of the following may take you by surprise.

Though Lincoln fathered four sons, there are no living descendants.

Standing behind the President on the day of his inauguration is none other than his assassin, John Wilkes Boothe (this one gives me the creeps).

Keeping in the realm of the creepy, Lincoln’s son Robert, who was in Washington when his father was killed, was at the scene when President Garfield was shot in 1881 and at the assassination of President McKinley in 1901.

A notoriously messy person, Lincoln kept an envelope on his desk at all times. On it, he had written, “When you can’t find it anywhere else, look into this.”

Lincoln was the first major leader to be a proponent of women’s suffrage, and as a State Legislator presented an Illinois paper in its support.

Abraham’s penchant for stovepipe top hats was more than aesthetic; he used it as a ‘purse’ of sorts, carrying in it such things as letters and money.

A very famous quote by Abraham Lincoln, one that should be taken up by every modern day politician, reads, “The time comes for every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.”

For me, these are two men epitomize what a leader should be; there was very little personal gain in obtaining the Presidency in their times, except for the concept of egoic power, a smidgen of which I believe Washington possessed more than Lincoln. Instead, these men took up the reign for the true and sincere desire to serve their country, to devote their lives to a nation they loved. Indeed, worthy of a day of reflection and celebration.


Lou's Threads said...

I love your post, thanks for reminding us what this day is really about!

Donna Russo Morin said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Marilou. Thanks much!

Frances said...

Presidents' day definitely isn't for cars for sale but rather to commemorate and honor the memories of our presidents like Washington.