By Dr. Mark Creech
Christian Action League
February 20, 2017
Today is Presidents Day. The origin of Presidents Day goes back to the 1880s when the birthday of our first President George Washington was celebrated as a federal holiday. In 1968, a proposal was made to Congress to change Washington’s Birthday to Presidents Day to honor both Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, both of which were in February. Lincoln’s birthday was already celebrated in many states but never made into an official holiday. The name change was first rejected, but in 1971 President’s Day became the commonly accepted title for the day.
William J. Bennett in his book, The Spirit of America, says, “Washington understood what it meant to be a true patriot. A true patriot would serve his country selflessly, without pay. So in order to set an example, Washington refused payment for his services to his country, first in his role as commander-in-chief and later as president…Even when we cannot meet the standard Washington set, its selfless spirit should be our guide and inspiration.”
In his first inaugural address, Washington spoke about his sacrifice of compensation. Washington said,
“When I was first honored with a call into the Service of my Country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution, I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive Department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed, may, during my continuance in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.”
Do you want to know another president who refused to take a salary while in office?
It’s our current president, Donald J. Trump. The president certainly has a right to that salary, even if he is a rich man, but for the love of country, he won’t take it.
In a 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl, Trump reiterated his campaign promise that he would not take the wages allotted for the presidency. “I think I have to take by law one dollar so I’ll take one dollar a year,” he told Stahl.
And just like Washington, who declared in his inaugural speech that the nation in his day was “on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties” and in that light he renounced his compensation, Trump said something similar to Stahl in the interview.
Stahl asked Ivanka Trump, who was also present for the interview if the campaign had been bad for the family business brand. To which, Ivanka replied she didn’t think it mattered.
“Who cares? Who cares?’ Donald Trump added earnestly. ‘This is big league stuff. This is our country. Our country is going bad. We’re going to save our country. I don’t care about hotel occupancy. It’s peanuts compared to what we’re doing.’”
No president, whether Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Reagan, are without their flaws. But essential to the office is the heart of an ardent patriot. It seems to be without question our new president isn’t lacking in this virtue.
And that’s a fine thing to know on President’s Day.