For Presidents Day
In 1879, Congress approved “President’s Day” as a federal holiday to honor George Washington’s birthday. It was initially celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, Feb. 22, but it was moved to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act initially contained a proposal to honor both Washington and Lincoln, but the Lincoln proposal failed in committee. The states, however, have since passed laws to celebrate the holiday in a variety of ways including recognizing Washington alone, Washington and Lincoln, or Washington and the third president, Thomas Jefferson.
I consider Washington to be the greatest American ever. He clearly deserves to be honored by this holiday. But I also believe that when we call Washington our first president, we inadvertently diminish the contributions made by the 10 presidents who preceded him.
In 1776, the Continental Congress declared our liberty from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence. This was an act of treason against King George III, and those who signed risked death by execution. Washington did not sign the Declaration, but he certainly risked his life as general and would have faced trial for treason if captured.
From 1776, throughout the Revolutionary War years, and until our Constitution was ratified in 1787, the Continental Congress elected 10 presidents before Washington. Those who accepted presidential office during the Revolution essentially placed their name on the top of King George’s execution list. This was a tremendous commitment to liberty when you consider Washington’s army spent much of the war retreating from British forces.
For perspective, let’s compare this to our modern day President. I doubt he would risk his life for our liberty. Instead, his policies of forced health care, forced social tax, opposition to the Second and Fourth amendments, removal of educational control from local school boards, and action to monitor our private communications all take away our freedoms. And unlike the Continental Congress, I’ve seen no indication that our current Congressman, Ron Kind, has opposed these abusive policies.
So this President’s day, honor George Washington by saying a prayer for our country to have the wisdom to elect a president who values our God-given right to liberty as much as Washington did. And take a moment to remember the Declaration of Independence signers and the 10 Continental Congress presidents who willingly risked their lives for our freedom: Samuel Huntington (1779), Thomas McKean (1781), John Hanson (1782), Elias Boudinot (1783), Thomas Mifflin (1784), Richard Henry Lee (1785), John Hancock (1786, who ended his term early due to health), Nathaniel Gorhan (1786), Arthur St. Clair (1787) , and Cyrus Griffin (1788).
Shields on comments
In the Jan. 29 UW–Platteville Exponent, I was quoted in the story “UW–Platteville faces budget shortfall” as questioning whether or not the state Legislature cares about UW–Platteville or not. While it’s true the state support of the UW System has decreased significantly, I used too broad of a brush to paint a picture of our state government.
We are fortunate to have Rep. Travis Tranel and Sen. Howard Marklein represent and serve this area.
I apologize for my comments that may be interpreted as questioning the concern of Rep. Tranel or Sen. Marklein about the impact of the proposed budget cuts. The comments were a reflection of my concerns for UW–Platteville and those concerns should not have been expressed in a way that questioned the commitment of our elected representatives for the well-being of UW–Platteville.
On Feb. 2, at their invitation, I met with Rep. Tranel and Sen. Marklein and had a very open conversation about the nature of challenges the proposed budget presents. They were obviously very engaged and concerned about these issues and had useful advice on approaches to how to make our best case for smaller cuts and assured me they would be working to help us. I, and the university, greatly appreciate this kind of dialogue with Rep. Tranel and Sen. Marklein as we move forward.
Dennis J. Shields
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