History Q&A February 20, 2012: What is Presidents’ Day Officially Called? Washington’s Birthday — A Brief History of (What You Think Is) Presidents’ Day

HISTORY Q&A:

A Brief History of (What You Think Is) Presidents’ Day

The first thing to know: it’s not officially called Presidents’ Day

Source: Time, 2-20-12

Roger Viollet Collection / Getty Images

Roger Viollet Collection / Getty Images

To set the record straight, today isn’t actually Presidents’ Day. It is still known as Washington’s Birthday, according to the federal government and section 6103(a) of title 5 of the U.S. Code.

Give George Washington the credit he’s due, since this whole holiday thing started in 1796 when people began celebrating him during his final year as President. But even then, his Feb. 22 birthday wasn’t a clear-cut date. At that time, there was still a bit of confusion over the change in calendar systems, especially considering Washington’s birthday dated back to 1732. For those still using the old-school Julian-style calendar, which was in use in England until 1752, Washington’s birthday was Feb. 11. The Gregorian calendar, which took over for the Julian style, however, had his birthday as Feb. 22. That led to some confusion in the 1700s.

But our forefathers worked through their differences and landed on honoring Washington annually on Feb. 22, often with galas in Washington, D.C., and the tried and true U.S. pastime of drinking. The tradition of celebrating Washington continued for the next 90 or so years, and Congress made the holiday a law, giving Washington the first federal holiday to honor a person when they made it official in 1880….READ MORE

The use of Presidents’ Day as the name continued to grow in popularity, gaining widespread acceptance by the 1980s. Then, in 1999, due to Presidents’ Day having taken over as the accepted name, a pair of bills tried to force the official use of Washington’s Birthday for the holiday (Ronald Reagan’s birthday on Feb. 6 has added a fourth presidential birthday to the month of February). But there wasn’t much support for that, in essence offering Presidents’ Day a chance to celebrate not only Washington and Lincoln, but also all other presidents. Even Harrison.

Political Buzz August 4, 2011: Happy Birthday Mr. President! President Barack Obama Celebrates 50th Birthday at Chicago DNC Fundraiser & at White House Rose Garden BBQ

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA CELEBRATES 50TH BIRTDAY

Barack Obama 2012: Sign the President’s 50th Birthday Card

“I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family. That’s no small task for anyone — and more proof that he’s earning every last one of those gray hairs. — Michelle Obama in a campaign email

“It is true that I turn 50 tomorrow (Thursday), which means that by the time I wake up, I’ll have an e-mail from AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), asking me to call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare.” — President Barack Obama in Chicago, 8-3-11

“Even if I live to be 100. I have more yesterdays than tomorrows.” — President Bill Clinton, 1996 at 50

“Actually, the anniversaries of my birth aren’t important. What is important is that I have tried to lead a meaningful life and I think I have.” — President Ronald Reagan

“I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.” — President John F. Kennedy, 1962 at 45

Barack Obama Turning 50: ‘I Feel Real Good’: U.S. president may be a bit grayer but says first lady still thinks he’s cute.
As Obama Celebrates Birthday, a Look at U.S. Presidents at 50
President Obama turns 50 Aug. 4, 2011. Despite the graying hair and stresses of the job, “I feel real good about 5-0,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “I’ve gotten a little grayer since I took this job but otherwise, I feel pretty good,” he said, adding that the first lady still thinks he’s cute. He attended a birthday fundraiser Wednesday and planned two celebrations for his birthday. He was expected to spend the weekend at Camp David with family and friends…. – ABC News, 8-4-11

50 Things You Might Not Know About President Obama On His 50th Birthday: 1. He and Bill Cosby are the only people to ever get free food from Ben’s Chili Bowl.
2. He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper when he lived in Indonesia.
3. He says his favorite children’s book is “Where the Wild Things Are.”
4. He owns a pair of boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali.
5. He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.
6. He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager.
7. His favorite show is “The Wire.”
8. He majored in Political Science at Columbia University.
9. His father grew up herding goats.
10. He used to drive a Chrysler 300m.
11. He used the n-word in his audio book “Dreams From My Father.”
12. He watches HBO’s “Entourage.”
13. He was an avid reader of the “Autobiography Of Malcolm X.”
14. He owns several Bob Marley albums.
15. His first date with wife, Michelle Obama, was the movie “Do The Right Thing.”
16. He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia.
17. He applied to appear in a Black pin-up calendar while at Harvard, but was rejected by the all-female committee.
18. His favorite book is “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville
19. His favorite movie is the “Godfather.”
20. His high school yearbook picture inscription thanks “Tut,” “Gramps,” and the “Choom Gang.” Choom is Hawaiian slang for “pot smoking.”
21. He has seven half-brothers and sisters in Kenya from his father’s other marriages.
22. He did a good imitation of Jesse Jackson while he was at Harvard.
23. His high school nick name was “O-bomber.”
24. He won a Grammy for his audio book “Dreams From My Father.”
25. He has read every Harry Potter book.
26. He was called Barry until he became known as Barack in college.
27. He was in the Columbia Black Student Union.
28. Jesse Jackson’s daughter is his daughter Malia’s godmother.
29. His favorite artist is Pablo Picasso.
30. He can bench press 200 pounds.
31. His name means blessed by God in Swahili.
32. He was the 5th African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate.
33. He enjoys rap artists The Fugees and Jay-Z.
34. He gets his hair cut once a week.
35. He says he would’ve been an architect if he wasn’t a politician.
36. He was on the Hawaii high school state basketball champion team.
37. He was mentored by Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree who was also the lawyer for rappers Tupac and Shyne.
38. He loves playing Scrabble.
39. His favorite president is Abraham Lincoln.
40. He traveled to Kenya in 1988 and met many of his paternal relatives.
41. His favorite meal is wife Michelle’s shrimp linguini.
42. His paternal grandfather was affiliated with the Kenyan revolutionary Mau Mau movement.
43. His maternal grandfather fought in World War II.
44. Some of his maternal ancestors were slave owners.
45. He moved to Chicago and worked as a director of the Developing Communities Project after college.
46. He has a beer named after him in Kenya.
47. He wrote a children’s book “Of Thee I Sing.”
48. His father attended Harvard University.
49. His first public speech was at Occidental College, calling for the school to disinvest from apartheid South Africa.
50. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School.
News One, 8-4-11

    • Obama’s Rose Garden 50th Birthday Bash: The President’s private 50th birthday bash, not listed on his public schedule: His gift to the press corps was a travel/photo lid shortly after 4 p.m., prompting what pooler Julie Mason called “general cheering in WH workspace.” An hour later, the party started…
      –… with dinner in the Rose Garden, accompanied by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. Then the First Lady and his daughters presented POTUS with a cake, and everyone moved into the East Room for performances that included R&B singer Ledisi, and Herbie Hancock. Stevie Wonder came up at the end and sang a medley ending in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” DJ Cassidy played Motown, hip hop, and ’70s and ’80s R&B.
      –The president asked everyone to dance — and they did!
      –DINNER: BBQ chicken, ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta, salad.
      –DESSERT: apple, peach, huckleberry and cherry pies; chocolate cake.
      –GUESTS: Al Sharpton, Patrick Gaspard, UBS Investment Bank President Robert Wolf, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, Leader Nancy and Paul Pelosi, Secretary Tim Geithner, Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep./DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Virginia Gov. and DNC Chair Tim Kaine, Anita Dunn and Bob Bauer, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Valerie Jarrett, Michael Strautmanis, Pete Rouse, Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Denis McDonough, John Brennan, Rahm Emanuel, Tina Tchen, White House chef Sam Kass, Julianna Smoot, Marty Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker, Linda Douglass, and many more.
      –CELEBS: Jay-Z, Hill Harper, Chris Rock, Charles Barkley, Steve Harvey, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Grant Hill, Gayle King.
      –Also present: Chicago pals, law-school friends, donors – and lots of kids of friends, who stole the show by doing dance routines to the hip-hop songs, in the center of the East Room… – Politico, 8-5-11 Chicago Sun-Times, 8-5-11 Fox News, 8-5-11
    • President Obama Celebrates Birthday in Private Star-Studded Rose Garden Party: White House officials offered no details about the Rose Garden barbecue and birthday party thrown for President Obama last night. No menu, no guest list, the event did not appear on his official schedule.
      Their silence might be so as to not create the impression that the president was celebrating just hours after the Dow Jones fell 500 points. Politicians hate to be portrayed as fiddling while Rome burns, Nero-style.
      “Just left the Presidents birthday party at the White House. Herbie Hancock played, Stevie Wonder sang and yes they did the electric slide. A great night,” comedian Chris Rock tweeted.
      Rock joined other celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Jay-Z, Charles Barkley, Steve Harvey and Grant Hill, as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelsoi, D-Calif., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House chief of staff Bill Daley, senior adviser David Plouffe, political advisers David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and more…. – ABC News, 8-4-11
    • Obama celebrates 50th birthday at White House: With the arduous debt talks behind him, President Barack Obama celebrated his 50th birthday at the White House Thursday with a Rose Garden party, a toast from his senior staff and some good-natured ribbing from his wife.
      After spending the morning of his milestone birthday working in the Oval Office, the president headed to the Blue Room of the White House for a celebration with top aides. White House chefs were spotted cooking chicken and burgers on outdoor grills.
      Later, Obama was celebrating with family and friends, including some who came in from his hometown of Chicago, in the Rose Garden. The president’s oldest daughter, Malia, also made it home from summer camp in time to celebrate her dad’s 50th…. – AP, 8-4-11
    • Obama’s 50th Birthday: A Private Celebration: President Barack Obama is keeping a very low profile on his 50th birthday.
      He is celebrating at the White House Thursday evening with family and a close group of friends. Some of the guests flew in from his hometown of Chicago, and the president’s daughter Malia came home from camp for the day to celebrate.
      Several grills were fired up outside the West Wing all afternoon, cooking burgers for the occasion. But before Mr. Obama hits the barbecue, senior White House staff will toast him in the residence, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
      Mr. Obama had no events on his schedule, and Mr. Carney said the public will not see the president at all on this milestone day.
      Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is making the most of the president’s birthday. Mr. Obama headlined a trio of birthday-themed campaign events in Chicago Wednesday night…. – WSJ, 8-4-11
    • ‘Happy birthday, Mr President’: Jennifer Hudson channels Marilyn Monroe as she serenades Barack Obama at 50th: Marilyn Monroe went down in history when she purred a seductive ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F Kennedy back in 1962.
      And last night, it was Jennifer Hudson’s turn to channel the late film star by singing the song to President Barack Obama, albeit in a much more low key style…. – Daily Mail UK, 8-4-11
    • Here to raise dough, celebrate big 5-0, Obama says: ‘It starts now’: President Barack Obama left the heated partisan atmosphere in Washington on Wednesday for an overly warm hometown 50th Birthday Party with 2,400 fans and donors packing the historic Aragon Ballroom in Uptown.
      “It doesn’t matter how tough a week I have in Washington, because I know you’ve got me — you’ve got my back,” President Obama told the crowd. “When I come to Chicago, when I travel across the country, I know we can’t be stopped.”
      Introducing Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said “This looks like the Uptown Music District,” a reference to one of the mayor’s pet entertainment projects.
      With Jennifer Hudson leading the crowd in singing Obama “Happy Birthday” and with a thermometer on the stage reading 92 degrees, Obama joked, “This is a warm welcome right here.”… – Chicago Sun-Times, 8-4-11
    • Obama’s 50th celebration: Tame by presidential standards: President Obama’s celebration of his 50th birthday is pretty tame by presidential standards, lacking starlets sewn into sheer rhinestone-studded dresses, fireworks, or the 300-pound cakes trotted out at parties thrown for some of his predecessors in the White House.
      For Obama, his birthday on Thursday gave him an excuse to visit ever so briefly his hometown of Chicago, something he rarely gets to do. And, of course, an excuse to raise more money for Democrats, something he does quite frequently with the 2012 campaign fast approaching.
      The Wednesday night event at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom was planned as a lavish event, featuring singer Jennifer Hudson and musician Herbie Hancock. The donors there to sing “Happy Birthday” paid $35,800 a head for the special dinner that goes along with the show. The money—split between Obama’s reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee—will be welcome after the debt-ceiling fight forced him to cancel other fundraisers planned for July.
      Obama, the fifth youngest president, is the seventh president to turn 50 in office; the last before him was Bill Clinton in 1996. The other five—Polk, Pierce, Grant, Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt—were born between 1795 and 1858 and chose to celebrate the big day pretty quietly. But quiet was not Clinton’s style…. – National Journal, 8-4-11
    • Mr. Obama’s $3,580,000 birthday present: Barack Obama turned 50 years old today. Happy birthday Mr. President. For the sake of America, I will not sing to you. I am no Marilyn Monroe.
      The best birthday wish we can give him is to have an enjoyable day with Michelle, Sasha, and Malia. May his children give him joy for many years to come.
      The day will be a celebration of Barack Obama, rendering it indistinguishible from every other day in his life. Nevertheless, today he actually is entitled to be king for a day. Tomorrow he will have to take his tiara off again.
      Mr. Obama was given a birthday president of $3,580,000, or 89% of a Kobe Bryant apology diamond. 100 obese felines, an animal that Obama pretends to disdain, all donated $35,800 for the right to inspect his (backside, redacted) and make sure it was as clean and delightful as MSNBC insists. He has every right to this money. He “earned” it…. Washington Times, 8-4-11
    • President Barack Obama Turns 50: What do you get the man who has everything? That’s the question friends and family of President Barack Obama will answer Thursday, when he celebrates his 50th birthday in Washington, D.C. According to a White House official, Obama will spend the morning working, but will later retreat to an afternoon toast by his senior staff in the blue room, and an evening celebration with family and close friends.
      “Malia is coming home from camp tomorrow just for her daddy’s birthday,” he told attendees at a Democratic National Convention fundraiser in Chicago Wednesday night. “I’m very happy about that.”… – People, 8-4-11
    • For Obama, turning 50, it’s happy fund-raising: For many men, turning 50 can be a day of reckoning, marked by graying hair, a slowing step and the wistful recognition that you are probably never going to make it to the corner office. What could be better, at such a melancholy moment, than to celebrate at home, among old friends?
      But if you are already in the corner office, and it’s oval, you get to celebrate your 50th at a fund-raiser in a Chicago ballroom, with Jennifer Hudson singing “Happy Birthday,” Herbie Hancock jamming and 100 “friends” paying $35,800 a plate to commiserate over dinner, while bankrolling your bid to keep your job… – Economic Times, 8-4-11
    • Obama’s new fundraising speech: 2008 was really bad, so I need a second term: After a rough month of enforced presidenting from within the White House, President Obama fled Washington and governing Wednesday, back to Chicago allegedly to celebrate his birthday with home folks. But, of course, the real reason was campaigning for money, raising more of it from the Windy City for his billion-dollar reelection campaign. The Wednesday highlight was supposed to be a high-stakes dinner with the president, which isn’t really dinner with the president because he just arrives late, speaks briefly and leaves without eating. The tab: $35,800 per plate.
      Despite enduring a newly sagging economy and the worst wrong track and job approval numbers of his presidency, this 50th birthday of Obama’s is turning out to be a big deal. His Russian pal, President Dmitry Medvedev, called the other day. Jennifer Hudson sang for him Wednesday. Little Rahm Emanuel, now Mayor Emanuel, praised him highly.
      Some Obama staff traveled out to Andrews Air Force Base to greet the returning POTUS at…. …midnight and sing for him. But Obama apparently couldn’t hear them. And then tonight there’s a White House birthday party, which Donald Trump is not expected to attend…. – LAT, 8-4-11
    • Michelle Obama: Husband is earning his gray hairs: First lady Michelle Obama is joining the public celebrations of her husband’s 50th birthday, sending an e-mail to supporters asking them to sign an Internet birthday card…. – USA Today, 8-4-11
    • Turning 50, President Obama becomes a Washington tweener: Washington venerates its ancients, idealizing and idolizing the elder statesman, lavishing perks and institutional potency as rewards for seniority.
      Yet the city also runs on the fuel of youth, the recent college grads who staff the offices, and the rising professionals whose ambitions juice the city’s striver culture.
      In the fuzzy middle between those poles lie the 50-somethings, federal Washington’s version of tweeners, a demographic group fraught with generation-straddling, career-tweaking, life-altering conundrums: Dump that modest-paying but idealistic government gig for private-sector riches? Hang in there for one more term in hopes that a committee chairmanship finally will be yours?
      On Thursday, President Obama — one of American history’s most precocious achievers — joins the ranks of Washington 50-somethings, an age span he’ll share with 29 U.S. senators but just one of 16 Senate committee chairmen (that would be Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who sits atop the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee). Reaching the pinnacle of American power so early means Obama will have to figure out what to do with himself for a big chunk of his 50s, whether in 2013, when he could become a 51-year-old one-termer, or in 2017, when he could leave office as a 55-year-old two-termer.
      Obama will become just the third president to turn 50 in office in more than 130 years, following Theodore Roosevelt, whose low-key 50th in 1908 prompted a stream of messenger boys delivering congratulatory notes to the White House, and Bill Clinton, who celebrated hitting the mid-century mark in 1996 with a star-studded party and fundraiser.
      As Obama’s 50th approaches, he’s taken to quipping about getting grayer, but he still gets up and down a basketball court without reaching for the oxygen tank. Obama celebrated his 49th last year by dining with Oprah Winfrey and a few other friends while his wife and kids were vacationing. This year, he’s expected to do it up big, with a party in Chicago featuring Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock, and a $35,800-a-head fundraiser…. – WaPo, 8-2-11

Michelle Obama:

Every day, I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family. That’s no small task for anyone — and more proof that he’s earning every last one of those gray hairs.
This has been a busy week in Washington, but today happens to be Barack’s 50th birthday. I’m writing to you because this year, the girls and I would like to do something a little different.
I’m asking friends and supporters of this campaign to wish him a happy birthday by signing his card, and sharing why you’re on this journey with us.
Your names and notes will become part of a book that tells the story of this campaign — who’s building it, why we’re in this thing, and what he means to us. We’ll deliver a copy to Barack and send one to our campaign offices across the country.
I’ve known Barack for more than 20 of his 50 years, and we’ve been through quite a lot together.
It still amazes me that no matter how many decisions and distractions he’s faced with every day, he’s always able to focus on the bigger picture. One way he does that is by making time for stories and letters from people like you — because he knows that this job isn’t about him, but about the millions of folks around the country he’s fighting for.
This next year will challenge us all to work harder than ever before, but the crucial thing is that you’re here now, early on, helping to build this campaign.
I know that, like Barack and me, you have your own reasons why, so I hope you’ll take a moment to sign the card and share your story with him and other supporters of this campaign.
http://my.barackobama.com/Birthday-Card
Thanks for being a part of this.

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