February 12 marks the birth anniversary of 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Back in the olden days, before Monday holidays and Presidents’ Day, we school children got both Abraham Lincoln AND George Washington’s birthdays off from school. That was two days off from school in February for almost all of my school years. Hence, we knew Lincoln’s birthday was on the 12th and Washington’s on the 22nd.
While I don’t know any other President’s birthday, those two have stuck with me all these years. With Valentine’s Day on the 14th and my oldest son’s birthday on the 19th, the ten day stretch between the 12th and 22nd is full of commemorations.
I’m wondering how we are better served by combining these two President’s birthdays into one Monday holiday? Other than calling it “President’s Day” holiday do we even think of the individuals for whom this holiday is named? Do we talk about their legacies in the history of our nation, enough so that we have a holiday in honor of their significance? Do we even care? (Yes, those are rhetorical questions.)
Sometimes we just need a gentle nudge to open us up to explore and think about why someone like Lincoln is worth considering and remembering. Twentieth century American composer, Aaron Copland, an orchestral work, which also incorporates some of Lincoln’s lesser known words, that gives us that nudge.
Thankfully, these are not the olden days and there are many selections on YouTube of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. I am posting two that I like. The first link has a slightly shortened orchestral version narrated by actor Gregory Peck, and is accompanied by historical pictures from Abraham Lincoln’s life and times. The second link is the full orchestral version, narrated by former Illinois Governor and presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, II. Incidentally, Stevenson’s grandfather, Jesse W. Fell, was a close friend and political ally of Lincoln.