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Examiner
  • Jerry Plantz: Celebrate our greatest presidents

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  • Happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln, on your 205th birthday!
    Our 16th president was born in Kentucky on Feb. 12, 1809, and was the first president to be assassinated. He died on April 15, 1865.
    Our first president also has a February birthday. However, Washington’s birth date is more convoluted. He was born, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, in Virginia on Feb. 11, 1731. In 1752, Britain changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, thus moving Washington’s birthday a year and 11 days to Feb. 22, 1732.
    So why do we celebrate it on Feb. 17th this year? The Monday holiday law took effect in 1971, creating three-day weekends and declaring Washington’s day to be celebrated on the third Monday in February. Congress has established 10 federal holidays, which apply only to the federal government and the District of Columbia. Congress has never declared a national holiday binding on all states, each state decides its own legal holidays.
    On the 130th anniversary of Washington’s birth, Congress began reading his famous farewell address. The Senate still carries out that tradition.
    Answers.com has 16,000, books and periodicals written about Lincoln and 3,000 about the father of our country. Both share some 100 movies and plays about their lives. Actors Henry Fonda, Raymond Massey and Daniel Day-Lewis generated the most raves portraying Lincoln in film. while George Nash, Terry Layman and Barry Bostwick are praised on the Washington side.
    Locally, Lee’s Summit Air Force veteran Willard Jurgensmeyer – complete with mid-1860s attire, including a top leather hat – portrayed Lincoln in scores of live solo performances at local schools and churches in the mid-1960s.
    “I portrayed Lincoln because he was a scholar, a patriot, a charismatic leader and a believer in God’s word,” the 83-year-old veteran said.
    Both presidents have been rated by scholars and historians as our most famous president. Who is number one depends on who you reference. A recent Huffington Post survey had Lincoln as one and Washington two (President Truman was fifth). Wikipedia has Washington first and Lincoln second. My top four favorites: Adams, Truman, Washington and Lincoln.
    Their historic legacy and popularity will long endure, for their likeness abounds as they grace Mount Rushmore, numerous memorials and our currently, and their names live on in cities and counties around the country.
    Happy birthday, Mr. Presidents!
    I give you president John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
    Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at jerryplantz@msn.com.
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