From the February 2008 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

February 1, 2008

Presidents Day

The vast majority of readers probably remember the February of their primary school years as a time to recall the greatness of George Washington, whose birthday is February 22, and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is February 12. There would be school plays, remembrances of colonial times and the Emancipation Declaration, and on the actual birthdays, both schools and businesses would be closed.

Somewhere along the line, these solemn observances gave way to 'Presidents Day,' a single day commemorating all the presidents. Americans may not know much about history, but they instinctively understand that Warren G. Harding (whose cronies were responsible for the Teapot Dome scandal) does not deserve equal time with America's Revolutionary War general, chairman of the Constitutional Convention and first President of the United States.

Perhaps that is why these two remarkable days celebrating two giants of U.S. and world history have morphed into a day off of school and work, and a day for car dealerships' blowout sales, replete with noisy and garish advertising and insulting images of sleazy Kia car salesmen's faces between those of Washington and Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore.

What will it take to end this desecration of historical memory? Maybe the solution lies in having another very great president in the future whose leadership inspires a re-appreciation of the past. In a few days, voters in 20 states will be casting their primary and caucus ballots to name their candidate to be the next president of the United States. In the past, Super Tuesday was the day with the most states holding elections. However, this year, because an unprecedented number of states have moved back their elections to this early date, Super Duper Tuesday may prove decisive. By the end of the day on February 5, American voters will have chosen over 40 percent of the delegates to the party conventions.

So this February holds the key to the presidency, leaving more time for serious debate between now and November. And that's a good thing, with so many urgent issues. On the economy, there are troubling signs: consumer prices in basics like food and gas have been steadily rising. This could suppress consumer spending just as unemployment seems to making a comeback. And as the dollar declines, rising exports are not forestalling shrinkage in the manufacturing sector.

Even still, the dark cloud of recession is overshadowed by still darker scenes from the global jihad. Instability in Pakistan could put a nuclear arsenal in Islamist hands faster than the Iranian nukes policymakers have feared. With rising oil, money leaves our pockets and enriches those who fund terrorist enemies. Because of the grave issues at stake, perhaps solemnity will reign again on Presidents Day and concentrate our minds --- at least on the future president if not our glorious past ones.

Robert TyndallPublisherrtyndall@researchmag.com

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