Are you a fan of George Washington? Is that why?
"Yes, that's a large part of it," said Rep. Nick Joe Rahall II (D-W. Va.). "He's the first president one learns to remember. Talk about presidents, and he's the first one who comes to mind. He's the first president who is explained to children." Then Rahall shrugs, as if there's nothing more that needs to be said.
And there shouldn't be. You and I celebrate our birthdays on our birthdays, not on some randomly chosen Monday somewhere near the appropriate date. So why can't the father of our country do the same?
Because a 14-year-old federal law prevents it, that's why. Nick Rahall is trying to amend that law with a bill he has introduced. If ever a bill deserves to pass, Rahall's does.
The measure he is attempting to amend is called Public Law 90-363. It requires the nation to celebrate several holidays on a Monday close to the "traditional" day rather than on the "traditional" day itself.
Two chief reasons were given for "Monday holidays" during hearings in 1968:
* They would cause much less disruption in America's offices than having a holiday fall on a Monday this year, a Thursday next year and so on.
* The economy would get a boost, too, since three-day weekends would greatly increase travel.
Rahall is not convinced that either of these has happened to a significant degree. "You could argue that productivity in offices would go up on Monday and Tuesday if your employes knew they'd get Wednesday off," he said. "And on a three-day weekend, families are just as likely to stay home as to travel."
Rahall's bill would return celebration of Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day and Columbus Day to their "traditional" days. An identical bill has been introduced in the Senate by fellow West Virginian Jennings Randolph.
Both measures have languished in committee for nearly a year. But Rahall is confident that his bill will get a good, hard look from the Post Office and Civil Service Committee this month.
The reason is this month.
The 1968 law requires the country to celebrate Washington's Birthday on the third Monday in February. This year, however, the absurdity of that decree comes home to roost.
The third Monday of February 1982 falls on the 15th. But Washington's "real" birthday falls on the 22nd -- also a Monday, and seemingly just as good a day for the "official" celebration as the 15th.
"It's silly," says Rahall, of the "required" celebration on the 15th. "It's ridiculous."
Only one thing would be sillier: if Congress fails to do something about it.