A President’s Day

Lisa and I are taking the day off today. Neither of our employers observes Presidents’ Day, but we both have flexible holidays, and since Lisa is heading to a conference for the rest of the week she decided to take pity on me and help me get ready for my first days alone with the dogs.

So we’re sitting down watching the Today Show and finishing our breakfast. A little about Kerry and Edwards. Nothing about Washington or Lincoln. In fact, the only president I’ve come close to this weekend was Thomas Jefferson, and he only as a quote on the back of a bottle of Vacqueyras: “Good wine is a necessity of life for me.” Which illustrates one secret of being a memorable president: be quotable. (As opposed to Washington, whose collected letters appear to consist entirely of military orders or farm business.)

So why has Presidents’ Day become just another day for car sales? Isn’t soldiering on against the British, or saving the Union and freeing the slaves, worthy of memory?

There’s a word used in literary criticism which plays much more strongly in Christian liturgy: anamnesis. Not just remembering, it is actually a “bringing forward” of actions into the present so that we enter the moment again. It happens at major holidays for Christians, and at a few major secular holidays (the Fourth of July comes to mind). Presidents’ Day is not one of them.

But looking at the Cincinnatus of our country, who not only held the British at bay long enough for the French to join us and drive them to surrender but also held together the most amazingly talented collection of advisors in US history—John Adams, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph. Keeping them from killing each other must have been a full time job in itself.

So, take a moment today to bring forward that other famous Virginian president into the present.