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Presidents' Day is not about JC Penney

It’s bad form to whine but I’m feeling really cranky. I think I’ve got a legitimate complaint. We’re three days away from Presidents’ Day and the only evidence of the holiday is that some people get a long weekend, the commercials on TV selling everything from furniture to cars, and the shopping specials cramming my email in-box. I happen to think the tiny Abe Lincoln look alike jamming in front of his school locker for the J C Penney ad is funny, but it still annoys me that our greatest president has come to this.

The man who gave us “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” is now selling discount department store specials on cable during the recession? Really? Is this the history lesson we want to teach our children? Is this the meaning of Presidents’ Day? Go shopping? I don’t think we have to haul out our history books and spend the day remembering everything that Washington and Lincoln ever did. But wouldn’t it be nice if we did something to remember their remarkable contributions to our country? I feel 100% confident in saying that shopping is a tribute George and Abe would find more than a little disturbing and perturbing.

It feels reminiscent of the charge President Bush gave us in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As Americans were still reeling from the impact of that terrible assault, the leader of our nation told us what we should do to prove that our attackers had not succeeded.

“Go shopping.”

You know what? I don’t want to. There are plenty of times when I can go shopping and get bargains. National holidays were created for a purpose, and shopping wasn’t it even though all our merchants and marketers work very hard to make me think so. Well, I don’t want to teach my children and grandchildren that that’s what we do on these days. Each holiday has a special meaning. I choose to celebrate these holidays and their purpose with my family and friends. I choose to celebrate who we were and who we are and can be as a nation. Call me cranky or old-fashioned. I call it cool and retro. I choose to celebrate us. Give it a try this Presidents’ Day and see what you think. No sales, no stores, no shopping on the day itself. Celebrate two of our country’s best presidents and the legacy of leadership and civic engagement they left us. Be good citizens and pass on the lessons of citizenship to others. Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy your holiday!

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