President’s Day Honors All 43 Chief Executives
Next Monday is President’s Day, a federal holiday that few of us take too seriously. It’s a day off from school, there’s no mail delivery and there’s a chance to pick up some bargains because the cry of "Sale" is heard in stores throughout the land.
Not long ago we celebrated the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on two separate days in the month of February. Then as the concept of Monday holidays became popular for a number of reasons. Presidents Day combined the two on the third Monday in February.
Since the day now honors all 43 presidents to serve since Washington was inaugurated on Apr. 30, 1789, it is appropriate for us to remember that each of them contributed in some way to making the United States of America the great nation it is today, however lost in the depths of obscurity the achievements of some of the 43 may be.
Call us hopelessly naive, but we’re firmly convinced that anyone who wins any kind of elected office is a special person. Just looking at the elected officials we send to office from Queens—from school board members, city councilmembers, the district attorney, the borough president, state senators, Assemblymembers, Congressmembers, United States Senators to the president—is enough to convince us of this fact. The men and women we elect worked long and hard to get on the ballot and run for office.
Why do they do it? Many times it seems to us that anyone who runs for any kind of office, up to and including the presidency, has to be what several pundits would call "nuts." They spend long hours eating rubber chicken at banquets so they can accept a person of the year award from some organization of whose existence they learned only days—in some cases hours—before, attending a million meetings, spending a young fortune on campaign literature and television advertising, shaking hands, attending grand openings and ribbon cutting ceremonies, making commitments they’ll try their hardest to keep and knowing that in order to accomplish some of the things they promise to do they’ll have to forgo others. They may wake up the morning after Election Day to find that all their time and effort were for naught—they still lost.
Then, too, they may wake to find they won, a twist of fate they may end up regretting even more. Whatever decision the president makes, for example, he’ll find that at least 50 percent of the country hates the choice he made, and by extension, him. Anyone in any elected office finds him- or herself constantly walking a very fine line. And as is true for any person in a position of prominence, every move he or she makes will be relentlessly scrutinized, analyzed, and in many cases, vilified. And it seems that the people who like the decision, whatever it was, keep silent. There are few marches on any seat of government, be it a village hall or Washington, D.C., in favor of any action by an elected official. As a general rule, people are more inclined to condemn than to praise, as every elected official is well aware.
Our elected officials are very brave, indeed. At every step they risk opprobrium, or at the very least, indifference. Presidents take even greater risks. That being the case, we salute all who choose to run for public office and on this Presidents Day 2003, especially those who have attained the title of Chief Executive. However they reached the Oval Office, in some way their presence graced it. When we say, "Hail to the Chief," we mean it, for many reasons. We hope our readers do, too.