Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
February is such a dull month. The only significant holiday listed on the calendar this year is Presidents’ Day. Traditionally, there were two holidays—one commemorating the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, and the other, the birth of the father of our nation, George Washington.
Somewhere in time, Congress determined to combine the two holidays and, in turn, honor all the presidents, past, present, and future.
These two giants contributed to our survival as a nation, but also to the understanding of what it means to be an American: Abraham Lincoln kept us together by ultimately abolishing the stain of slavery from the fabric of our souls. He reinforced the proposition that all men were created equal. After all, we are a nation of people who suffered inhuman treatment from tyrannical despots and potentates.
George Washington ensured our continuity as a sovereign community by contributing wealth and fortitude so that the shackles of ingratitude and ignorance, as displayed by King George of England, could be broken. And it was not just his resources and courage, but also his determination and example.
America is still the hope of the world. The message that was transmitted by a few valiant people reverberated around the world and is responsible, to this day, for millions of people living free. And we are still a beacon of hope to those yearning to taste liberty and independence. The lamp at the doorway to America is lit for all to see, for all to enjoy, for all to use as a guide to the glow of self-determination.
Each president of these United States, the people elected to the different branches of government, and the citizen on every corner of this great nation contributed in some way to the furtherance of these lofty ideals dreamed about through the ages. And, finally, a resting place was found nestled in the arms of a caring and loving leadership destined to create a haven of goodness and mercy assisted by a noble Deity
So, as we visit the malls and rummage through the newspapers looking for the coupons of the day, remember that it is possible because of these two men who dared to dream, dared to display that special bravery. And because they had the ability to motivate and encourage others to rally to their banner of optimism and faith.
God bless America. May the memory of these men, all the presidents, the people wearing a uniform who served and forfeited their lives, continue to be a blessing to all of us. This to me is what it means to be an American.