It took 81 years for Congress to honor George Washington with a federal holiday on his birthday, the first honor ever accorded an American citizen by the federal government. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was never actually a federal holiday until it was combined with Washington’s into President’s Day in 1971. Several states celebrated both holidays at least since Lincoln’s death in 1865, but those are generally the only Presidents recognized by state holidays, and all of them waited until after the President had left office to declare the holidays.
Welcome to Hope and Change, Hawaii style:
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa wants President Obama’s Aug. 4 birthday to be a state holiday, right up there with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana’ole Day, King Kamehameha I Day and even Christmas.
State Rep. Della Au Belatti, D-25th (Tantalus, Makiki, McCully), would like the Jan. 20 date of Obama’s presidential inauguration to be forever known in the Islands as Barack Obama II Ohana Day.
And even Republican state Rep. Gene Ward, R-17th, (Kalama Valley, Queen’s Gate, Hawai’i Kai), hopes to turn 4,124 square feet of overgrown scrub land owned by the state Department of Transportation into President Barack Obama Birthplace State Park. …
“We’re all Americans first and then we’re Republicans and then we’re Democrats,” Ward said yesterday as he drove past the vacant parcel on his way into town from Hawai’i Kai. “It’s bare, except for two big HECO transformers and a big rock. It’s there just kind of growing weeds.”
The empty lot symbolizes the Obama presidency, then, which has been kind of bare after only one year in office. Naming a state park after a native President at this stage is bad enough. Why not wait a few years and see whether it’s worth it then? Why the rush?
But designating a state holiday to honor a President involves more than just the cost of signage and some routine maintenance. State holidays create massive labor costs for time off, and overtime for critical personnel. More importantly, they exist to honor people of real accomplishment, whose actions reverberate through time and whose work provide reason for contemplation and honor. What has Obama done to deserve that kind of recognition? Win an election?
Au Bellatti has the right prescription for a bad idea. If Hawaii really feels the need to suck up to its native son at this stage of his presidency, use an official but meaningless (and inexpensive) proclamation. Even with that, the rush to canonize Obama as some sort of secular saint is not only ridiculous, but bordering on idolatry of the worst kind. America does not need a Dear Leader. It needs a leader who takes the job seriously and is held accountable for his actions.