Since 1971, the Presidents Day holiday has been observed on the 3rd Monday of February. Washington’s birthday (February 22nd) was historically a holiday that was recognized by Americans, and in 1885, it became an official federal holiday in which all government offices closed. It is interesting to note that Washington was actually born on February 11th based on the Julian calendar that was originally used in the British Colonies. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in the English Colonies, Washington himself opted to begin observing his birthdate on the equivalent date of February 22nd . Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th) was never a federal holiday, but several states including New Jersey, Missouri and Illinois do honor Lincoln with a state holiday on his birthdate. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the term Presidents Day became popular due to a push from advertisers, but is still not a universal term as many states have different official designations for the day.
Despite the confusion of dates and inconsistency in observance, shouldn’t the intention of the Holiday be to reflect upon our Presidents Past and perhaps the historic events surrounding them, and the significance of each?
In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest visited the White House on three separate occasions. Each time he visited and met a United States President, a funny or historic event took place. Of course the movie is fiction and the scenes were added to entertain and add to the story of Forrest Gump and the impact that he had on the country and on history. Do you remember the three Presidents that Forrest met? Did you recognize the significance or special event that took place during each meeting?
Forrest next visited the White House to receive the Medal of Honor. He is awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics in returning to the front line to retrieve his fellow wounded soldiers during a battle in Vietnam. On this visit, Forrest meets President Lyndon Johnson, who asks Forrest where he was wounded. Forrest tells President Johnson, “In the buttocks”. President Johnson then asks to see the wound and Forrest lowers his trousers and moons the President. This scene is very humorous in its own right. But it is also a twist on a real incident in which President Johnson pulled up his shirt and showed the press corps his 12 inch scar from a gall-bladder operation that had occurred 12 days earlier. That presidential incident caused national derision and embarrassment. Fortunately for Forrest, that scene only caused laughs.
Forrest’s final visit to the White House next occurred in 1972. Forrest was still in the army and was invited to meet President Nixon to be honored for his ping-pong skills. During that visit, President Nixon asks Forrest where he is staying during his visit to Washington, DC. When Forrest replies the Hotel Ebbott, President Nixon immediately tells Forrest that he will have his people move him to a much nicer hotel. The hotel President Nixon sends Forrest to is the Watergate. During Forrest’s stay at the Watergate, he calls the front desk to complain about a bunch of flashlights keeping him awake in another room. This of course turns out to be the Watergate burglaries and in the next scenes from the movie you see Nixon resigning as President. The implication is that Nixon’s downfall would never have occurred if he hadn’t switched Forrest to the Watergate hotel – Forrest’s actions set in motion the downfall of the President.
What many people do not know is that one scene hit the cutting room floor in which Forrest met an additional President: in a deleted scene, Forrest plays ping-pong with the then-Ambassador to China, George H. W. Bush.
For me President’s Day is a minor holiday, not nearly as important as Christmas, Thanksgiving, or the 4th of July. The banks and post office are closed but most retail is open for business – Presidents Day Sales! I find it interesting to reflect upon our Presidential history as I have during writing this article, not only in reality but in relation to my chosen career and the pop culture of movies. Perhaps then, we should all focus a little less on the sales of the day, and take a moment to reflect and consider? What do you think of Presidents Day?
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Next Blog Date: Thursday, February 18, 2010