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Lawmakers, historian, educator push to give George Washington his birthday back as US holiday
WASHINGTON (AP) ' Quick quiz. What is George Washington's birthday?
The official U.S. government answer is the third Monday in February, the day you can get a car or mattress on sale.
Lawmakers and witnesses at a House hearing Wednesday favored giving the first president his birthday back. They agreed that the federal holiday should be restored to Washington's real birthday of Feb. 22.
Through 1970, most Americans knew Washington's birthday because that was the holiday. The nation's holiday lineup was changed by a 1968 law that took effect in 1971, making Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Presidents Day Monday holidays to give Americans a three-day weekend.
The Senate Judiciary Committee report on the changes said the holidays would provide "substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the nation."
Well, the economic part certainly proved to be true.
"We need to change the focus from celebrating sales at the mall to celebrating the significance of President Washington's birth to the birth of our nation," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., sponsor of a bill to change the holiday to Feb. 22.
He was backed at the hearing by lawmakers of both parties, a historian, an educator and a member of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, which cares for Washington's historic Virginia home.
Wolf, who was a witness at the hearing, asked in his statement whether anybody else celebrated a birthday on the third Monday of a month. No hands went up.
Anne Neal, president of a higher education organization, said there was a serious reason to restore the holiday.
"As we move forward into the 21st century, too many of our future leaders are graduating with a profound historical illiteracy that bodes ill for the future of the republic," said Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
She added, "George Washington is no mere president, to be jumbled with Millard Fillmore and Chester A. Arthur."