Why We Celebrate Presidents’ Day

As I sit here on this sunny Sunday trying to find a way to listen to the new Kanye West album, I’m thankful that attempting to do this is the biggest challenge I have today. (Even though the obstacles of trying to make a Tidal account and listening to a 15 minute message from Mos Def on Kanye’s website have made it really difficult.) My big obstacles of studying for an economics quiz and doing a bunch of homework aren’t really coming until tomorrow. I think to myself, boy I’m glad we have this three day weekend. But why do we have it again? Is it just ‘cause it’s too cold to function. No, that’s not an excuse for Tufts. Only Tuf people study and teach on this campus. Is it MLK Day? No, that was last month. Was it to celebrate the release of Beyoncé’s new music video? No, although that might be a good reason for a holiday. This question was a bit perplexing for me, so I looked at my calendar to find out. Turns out that this coming Monday is Presidents’ Day.


I wondered to myself, why do we have a day dedicated entirely to Presidents? Half of the time, when people complain about something wrong with our country, the President’s involved. It’s probably Obama’s fault that it was -4 degrees the other night. Also, throughout the world, it can be seen that presidential systems of democracy are more inefficient and unstable than parliamentary systems, as can be seen through the history of numerous states in Africa and the tensions Obama admitted to have increased between the two major American parties in his recent State of the Union Address. Parliamentary systems, such as those in Canada, Japan, and pretty much every state Europe combines the job of Congress with the job of the presidency. Although this isn’t quite identical to the idea of separation of powers as identified by Baron de Montesquieu and the Framers of the Constitution, it seems to work and allows for power to be shared. America is an exception of developed democratic countries in that there’s one dude (Hillary can be a dudette) that has the power of commanding the entire executive branch. We have the most inefficient government out of every developed country in the world, and that’s something America can be proud of. We don’t have a consensus of providing healthcare to our citizens either; it hasn’t been reached because of the United States’ dedication to freedom and the ideal that corporations are people. America now has a system where the only reasonably efficient way to get things done is through fairly authoritarian executive orders. We can’t even allow two gay people that live together to receive tax benefits due to the polarity between the parties. If only there weren’t only two ways to view how to solve problems.


George Washington envisioned that in our system of government, political parties would divide our nation. And he had a point. Parties can create division within a community. However, even though parties divide us, there are defining features that unite. For example, like everyone else in the Tufts community, nobody at ATO drank alcohol unless they were over the legal age of 21. This is similar to the assumption that everybody in the United States of America believes that their votes make a difference and that their views are accurately represented in Washington. Over time, the rigid institution of  the presidential democratic system created this reality.


America’s presidency has had some great moments. From Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, to James Garfield’s post office scandal being left out of history due to his assassination a month into his presidency, to Theodore Roosevelt’s big stick, FDR’s New Deal, to Reagan’s tearing down of the Berlin Wall, to Bill Clinton not having sexual relations with that woman, George W. Bush asking the great question, “Is our children learning?” These moments are part of the American identity and are part of our culture. The USA is the greatest country in the world. Through the commitment to the experiment of allowing citizens to live however they want, the United States created something that’s as beautiful and ugly as a Quentin Tarantino movie. This country is a stylistic masterpiece, and we have our presidential government to thank for that. I also thank the executive branch for the executive order resulting in a holiday to honor the Presidents and allowing us to have an extra day this weekend.


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