Correction: Because of an editing error introduced without the author’s knowledge or permission, the original published version of the Spring Cleaning contribution cited here gave the mistaken impression that the author did not know that the third Monday in February is officially designated by Congress as George Washington’s Birthday and is only colloquially known as Presidents’ Day. The author’s text has been restored.
While I don’t disagree with Ramesh Ponnuru’s “Presidents’ Day” thesis that a representative democracy shouldn’t celebrate the office of the presidency [Outlook’s “Sixth Annual Spring Cleaning,” May 4], the fact is we don’t have any such holiday.
Ponnuru seems to have overlooked the plural possessive form of the word “president.” That’s because Presidents’ Day celebrates two of the country’s greatest presidents — Washington and Lincoln — whose birthdays are just 10 days apart. It is their day, not the office’s day.
In any case, no matter where the apostrophe is, “Presidents’ Day” isn’t a holiday. At least, not officially. The federal holiday is still called Washington’s Birthday, celebrated on the third Monday of February after Congress decided in 1971 to bolt several floating holidays to nearby Mondays so workers could get guaranteed three-day weekends. Some lawmakers tried at the time to change the name officially to Presidents’ Day, but the move was rejected.
What Ponnuru really should be advocating is for everyone in the country — but most especially retailers — to stop referring to the day by its unofficial title. Good luck with that.
John Merline, Purcellville
According to Ramesh Ponnuru, one of the “Ten things to toss” is “Presidents’ Day.” His solution is to “designate the third Monday of February to mark George Washington’s Birthday.”
Obviously Ponnuru did not check Title 5, Section 6103, of the United States Code before he made his suggestion. There has never been a federal holiday called “Presidents’ Day.” The holiday was first designated “Washington’s Birthday” in 1894. It still is. Back then, everybody knew which Washington was being celebrated. Today I’m not so sure.
David Glagovsky, Arlington