Officially, the United States Code deems this Monday, Feb. 17 a federal holiday commemorating “Washington’s Birthday.” However, over the years, this has caused some confusion among astute history students who generally agree that our nation’s first president was born on Feb. 22, 1732.
Why the discrepancy? Well, what started out as a legal holiday to honor George Washington on the anniversary of his birth was revised in 1971 under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. That meant from that year forward, the federal holiday would be observed on Mondays, regardless of the date, and that many Americans could therefore celebrate George Washington each year with a three-day weekend.
In the state of Ohio, we respect and honor the contributions of George Washington just as all Americans do. We are also more than happy to celebrate “Presidents’ Day,” as the holiday has unofficially come to be known, because our state has the distinction of contributing more individuals to our nation’s highest office than any other state. Ohio is the “Mother of Presidents” and on Presidents’ Day, I encourage all to take a moment to learn something new and to reflect on our history by visiting www.OhioFoundingFathers.com. For example, did you know that February is also the birth month of our nation’s ninth president, William Henry Harrison, who ran and was elected president while a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio?
My office launched the Founding Fathers initiative last year in order to provide a one-stop shop for students of all ages to learn these and other facts about Ohio. Here you will not only find information about the leaders and events that have shaped our state’s history, but you can also easily access historical records maintained by the Secretary of State’s office, including election statistics, past and current laws of Ohio and the Ohio Constitution. One of our primary goals was to make civics education fun. We are pleased that since July of 2013, thousands of visitors have logged on to our site and tested their Ohio knowledge by taking our “Do You Know Ohio” quiz.
As the chief elections official for the state, I believe that if we want future generations of voters to be good citizens and to make informed decisions, having a strong foundation in our history is a good place to start. So whether you plan to celebrate “Presidents’ Day,” “Washington’s Birthday,” or maybe even William Henry Harrison’s birthday (Feb. 9) please take this opportunity to learn something new about our past this month.
Secretary Jon Husted is Ohio’s 53rd Secretary of State. He can be reached at 1-877-767-6446, at 180 E. Broad St., 16th Floor, Columbus or www.OhioSecretaryofState.gov.