American history is often defined by who leads our country. And every four years, we the people have an opportunity to choose new leadership for our nation. Once elected, the 45 men who served as president of the United States no longer represented themselves but symbolized the strength and perseverance of America.
This President's Day, we recognize those who have cultivated the country we know today. Each president is known for his strengths and weaknesses, wins and losses, yet each indelibly shaped the path of our nation. Although many students and adults simply think of President's Day as another day off, it is important to remember the significance of the federal holiday.
Established in 1885, the President's Day federal holiday was originally created to celebrate President George Washington's birthday. It was the only federal holiday to celebrate the life of an individual, until Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a federal holiday in 1983. Since the 1970s, President's Day has been expanded to a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present.
When I visit schools in the 3rd District, one of my favorite questions I get asked is who are my favorite presidents. Without hesitation I always tell them, "Well that's an easy answer: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln." Both men selflessly served, navigating our young nation through history and doing what was right for our country and its people at very different times.
Before becoming our nation's first president, George Washington demonstrated that he was a great leader during his time as the commander of the Continental Army, against incredible odds that favored the British Army. Gen. Washington never gave up, and eventually helped the United States win our independence from Great Britain. As our first president, Washington's leadership provided a firm foundation for our country, and he set many standards and precedents that future presidents have strived to maintain.
Then, in 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as our nation's 16th president. President Lincoln led our country through its hardest years, the Civil War. However, in doing so, President Lincoln abolished slavery and modernized the economy. President Lincoln also gave one of our country's most memorable presidential speeches — the Gettysburg Address. In 272 words and three minutes in length, President Lincoln asserted that all men are created equal and he defined the war as an effort dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality for all.
American history is defined by those individuals who shaped our nation. Across the country, Monday will be a patriotic day, and for our children and grandchildren a day to continue learning about and revering our deep American history. It is so important for future generations to understand what our country has been through and to understand those who led us to where we are today. I hope President's Day serves as a reminder to all of us of just how lucky we are to live in this great democracy and this great nation. I wish everyone a safe and pleasant holiday weekend.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., shares his perspective each week on national issues, including ones that affect Missouri. He represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 635-7232.