Don’t let cynicism cloud this holiday

In an era where every base thought is able to be disseminated at a moment’s notice by anyone, including the president of the United States, the idea of honoring the president can be a little strained for many Americans.

But today isn’t about just what is happening today. President’s Day isn’t just a day off for many people and students. It’s a day to think.

We honor the first president, George Washington, and the 16th, the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are in February.

We honor the ability to conduct free elections and see peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.

We honor the symbolism of the office, of the honor it should bestow on its occupant and the nation. It matters not if you are among those who love or those who loathe the current occupant. Those divisions have been alive since George Washington became the first president.

Presidents Day has been officially called Washington’s birthday, and there was a day for Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Kentucky, and Washington was born Feb. 22, 1732, in Virginia.

Both men came from the American heartland of their day, and both served the nation in such admirable ways that they are honored with monuments in Washington, D.C.

Generations of children have been taught that Washington represented integrity and honesty, surrounding the mythical cherry tree story, and Lincoln was the lesson of freedom for all — for understanding that no one is less equal than any other. Yes, modern historical revisions in the interest of truth have torn down the cherry tree and tried to tarnish Lincoln’s motivation.

Those are the products of our current age, one that cannot see beyond cynicism and a disbelief in goodness, or beyond political partisanship.

Washington humbly served as the first president of a new nation that has lasted for centuries, and Lincoln set the slaves free and aimed the nation on a course toward equality. That it hasn’t been entirely achieved after all these years isn’t his fault.

If the nation has run out of good things to say about Washington and Lincoln, let alone whomever is in the White House in any given year, then maybe we should honor the institution of the presidency. Yes, the occupants change every four to eight years, but America should always represent the high ideal of peaceful domestic power to the rest of the world.

We can’t win the hearts and minds of the rest of the world if we stop believing in our own institutions.

Think today of the ideals Washington and Lincoln represent, regardless of the cynicism of the current age.

We should strive for those ideals, and those ideals are worthy of a Presidents Day holiday.