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Happy Birthday George Washington

Today February 22 is the birthday of George Washington, America's first President and a founding father of our nation.

Military Benefits states it simply:

The Federal holiday is officially recognized as Washington's Birthday, though the Federal government has never legally changed the holiday to President's Day. ("3rd Monday in February").

The Journal of the American Revolution posted a collection of statements including this one:

J. L. Bell:

Americans started to celebrate George Washington's birthday in the middle of the Revolutionary War. The first commemoration to be noted in newspapers occurred on February 11, 1779, in Milton, Massachusetts. The next was in Williamsburg, Virginia, in the same year, but eleven days later, on February 22.

The two dates reflected how people born in the British Empire before 1752 were still adjusting to the shift of the calendar that year. Washington had been born on a day that the Julian Calendar designated as February 11, 1731 (Old Style). The same day under the Gregorian Calendar was February 22, 1732 (New Style).

So which date should Washington's admirers celebrate? For years different communities chose different dates. As late as 1799, the town of Alexandria, Virginia, observed Washington's birthday on February 11 even though he wrote about "my birthday" as "the 22d."

And another writer:

Gene Procknow:
If you read only one of Washington's thousands of writings, I recommend his understated but elegant resignation address to the Continental Congress after the Revolutionary War. Unequivocally, Washington publicly recognized the primacy of civilian leadership over the military, which is a bedrock principle of American government today. However, distinctly different from many leaders today, nowhere in his three-hundred word address did a modest Washington take personal credit for victory or extoll his many successes. Most prominently, he highlighted and praised subordinate officers and urged Congress to recognize their critical contributions. Magnanimously, he handed his original officer's commission to the President of Congress, Thomas Mifflin, a former major general and critic who advocated replacing Washington in the dark days of 1777.

Finally, underscoring his respect for the supremacy of Congress, Washington physically bowed to the delegates before departing the chamber.

This dramatic and heroic example of subduing one's self-importance for the greater good of the nation is one of the principle reasons why we continue to celebrate Washington's Birthday over two hundred years after his death. Washington's resignation provides a timeless model for today's leaders and citizens to focus on what matters most, not on their ego gratification.

Public Advocate president Eugene Delgaudio dressed in colonial style in honor of George Washington's Birthday.

Subscribe to the Journal of the American Revolution here.