Ask Dr. Land: Should we still celebrate presidents' birthdays?

Question: Is it still important to celebrate President Washington's and President Lincoln’s birthdays?

Richard Land
(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

Before we put this year’s “Presidents’ Month” in our rear view mirror, we should underscore once again the greatness of the two presidents whose birthdays we celebrate each February.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are quite clearly the two greatest presidents yet produced by our nation.  Washington, the nation’s first president, in large measure defined the office, perhaps most importantly by turning down the offer to become a monarch, and instead voluntarily retiring from public office after two full terms as president (1789-1797).  With this extraordinary, virtually unprecedented surrender of political power, Washington bequeathed the nation its tradition of political restraint of executive power that has served American so well now for more than two centuries. King George III, when he heard Washington had stepped away from power after two presidential terms, is reported to have said “then Washington is truly a great man.”

Abraham Lincoln, the log cabin born, self-made, self-taught, son of the soil, came from a starkly different background than the aristocratic plantation owner George Washington.  And yet each leader guided America through one of her first two great crises, the Revolutionary War (Washington) and the Civil War (Lincoln).  Lincoln’s extreme suffering occasioned by the terrible brother-against-brother Civil War caused theologian Elton Trueblood to describe Lincoln as the “theologian of American anguish.”

In significant ways, President Lincoln used the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address to clarify, underscore and renew the promises of America’s Declaration of Independence in what historian Eric Foner has called The Second Founding (2019).  

In his incomparable Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln declares “that these dead shall not have died in vain.  That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”  The fact that in the year of our Lord 2021 various public officials in varied local school districts have taken it upon themselves to rip President Washington’s and President Lincoln’s names off of public schools because they don’t meet some amorphous standard of “wokeness” is the equivalent of civil blasphemy.

Such actions make no sense unless one’s purpose is to separate our young people from their nation’s past.  The great novelist William Faulkner once observed, “the past is never dead.  It’s not even past” (Requiem for a Nun). 

These heritage arsonists are attempting to prove Faulkner wrong and their goal is to eradicate these presidential pillars of our collective story from the present generation, thus depriving them of their priceless heritage as Americans. 

As George Orwell reminded us in his dystopian novel 1984, those who control the past, control the future. It appears that the goal of these “woke” radicals is to erase or defame America’s history to its current generation of citizens as a preparation for building on the rubble they will have created a radically different kind of society with very different goals and aspirations.

I believe it is the duty of every American who cherishes our noble history of seeking to evermore fully live up to our nation’s founding promise of “all men being created equal” to seek to rescue our young people from these cultural vandals and preserve our priceless heritage from being diminished, defamed or destroyed.  I invite you to join me in the battle for the heritage bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers.  May God grant us the grace to pass this heritage on, pristine and undiminished, in all its glory to the next generation.

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