Americans have celebrated Presidents’ Day for over 100 years, but there is something different about the holiday this year.
The federal holiday was established in 1885, originally in celebration of George Washington’s birthday. In 1971, as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the day became known as Presidents’ Day and was held on every third Monday in February. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was put in place as a way to create more three-day weekends for national workers.
In 2014, the Society for Human Resources Management ran a survey to see how many businesses were planning to offer paid time off for certain holidays. Almost all promised the following federal holidays paid time off: Christmas (97 percent), Thanksgiving (97 percent) and New Year’s Day (95 percent). Only 35 percent of businesses offered paid time off for Presidents’ Day.
Some banks, the stock market, the United States Postal Service, the DMV and most public K-12 schools (including Fargo-Moorhead schools) will be closed this Presidents’ Day, along with NDSU and M State. However, MSUM will remain open.
Do people think of the day as a holiday, even though only 35 percent of workers get the day off and not all colleges and universities are closed, or is it just another day marked on their calendar?
Junior Amelia Splinter said she doesn’t think it’s very important to people.
“(Presidents’ Day) has no impact. It’s just an excuse for a long weekend,” Splinter said. “I don’t think anyone really cares about Presidents’ Day in terms of holidays. No one knows what it’s about and no one really wants to do anything with it.”
Senior Cassandra Jackson felt similar and mentioned the effect it has on students’ education and money.
“It’d be nice to have it off just because it is an extra day off,” Jackson said. “But at the same time, it comes out of our tuition money anyway, so I don’t really see the point in taking the day off.”
As far as the history, it doesn’t seem most people care—five different students asked if they knew the history of Presidents’ Day all had the same response: no.
Whether knowledge of the holiday and the feeling toward past and present presidents have any correlation, students definitely have a lot to say on the latter.
Two foreign exchange students, Prajwal Maharjah and Ruben Singh, said they weren’t very happy with the way things have been going under the current president. One thing they agreed on was the current immigration issue.
“I am an immigrant, so I don’t like him,” Maharjah said, with a nod of agreement from Singh.
Singh mentioned how long the Trump administration took to pass bills when reflecting on what the president has done thus far in his term.
“Some good things take time to come into action, right?” Singh said. “But still now it has been one year, and I don’t think a lot of positive things (have happened).”
Splinter had similar views.
“I can’t think of a single damn thing (the president has done),” Splinter said. “He has had zero impact. The one thing that he’s managed to do is get his tax plan through, but I don’t think it’s a beneficial tax plan.”
Another common observation was the way the president presents himself, in politics and beyond. Singh thinks these tendencies have made him a somewhat negative figure in the public’s eye.
“I think the respect for the president has deteriorated,” Singh said. “He says so many things that if other presidents would have said (them), we would have been shocked right? But now it’s like we don’t even care.”
“He doesn’t really have a filter, so he just kind of says what comes to his mind right away, and that causes a lot race problems and problems with other countries,” Jackson said. “I think he has brought a lot of politics onto social media, so the way people look at him is affected a lot by that. It’s just a whole different world it seems like.”
Splinter sees the entire way of politics as changing because of the way Trump does things.
“The way he just doesn’t care about who he upsets or incites whenever he speaks has unfortunately led to a modern political discourse (where) neither side cares what’s wrong or right, everyone just wants to prove the other person wrong and no one wants to listen to each other,” Splinter said.
She mentioned how other politicians besides Trump are doing the same, leading to an overall shift in not only the way they do things, but also how the public perceives it.
“Well, if the president is doing it, then that’s how modern political debate should be held, even though that’s basically led to an erosion of all ability to see any sense in anyone’s arguments,” Splinter said.
Jackson and other students brought up the president’s use of Twitter.
“I think he should stick to the way previous presidents have portrayed themselves,” Jackson said. “If he wants to be on Twitter, I understand freedom of speech, but I think he should still filter what he tweets because he needs to be professional. He’s the president.”
She also believes the media has made a difference in Trump’s presidency.
“With the media, everything is really exaggerated. It doesn’t really focus on what’s really there,” Jackson said. “I think it helped him get himself out there a lot more. It got a lot more people talking about him. Maybe a lot of people voted for him that would have not even considered it.”
Jackson also suggested one thing the president has done to benefit America.
“He’s done well for the economy; it’s gotten better,” Jackson said.
Freshman Michael Nhye sees something similar to Jackson.
“Donald Trump is a business mogul, regardless of what people say. Maybe he doesn’t know how to address people properly, but his business idea is very proper for the state that the United States is in now,” Nhye said.
It may be true that differing opinions on the current president can reflect how Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day, but what will the president be doing this Monday?
How the presidents have celebrated the holiday has varied over the years. In 1837, Andrew Jackson opened the White House to the public to share a 1,400 pound cheese in celebration. Herbert Hoover spoke to the country over the radio, a fairly new form of technology in 1931.
No matter what snacks or celebrations President Trump decides on, he can be sure people will be watching his actions with a critical eye, even if they have the day off.