While President's Day has become another word for "three day weekend" in American vernacular, we would be wise to take a moment and consider its meaning. Originally, the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were the focal point of Presidents Day, but now the holiday is designated as time to celebrate all Presidents.

With a long line of 43 Presidents leading an ever-growing nation, the office of the Presidency has evolved into one of greater power and visibility over the years. Our tendency is to think of the legacy of the Office in current terms, but doing so threatens our memory of the concepts and values upon which our nation was founded.

So as you either jaunt off to your holiday weekend destination, or bemoan the fact that you don't get the day off, spend a little time thinking about the values of some of our American Presidents.

"Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience."
George Washington, at age 16, in George Washington's Rules of Civility.

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace."
George Washington

"Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us dare to do our duty as we understand it."
Abraham Lincoln

"Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing."
Abraham Lincoln, quoted in Anthony Gross, Lincoln's own stories, 1912

"May our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right."
John Quincy Adams

"Almost every man who by his life-work added to the sum of human achievement of which the race is proud , of which our people are proud, almost every such man has based his life-work largely upon the teachings of the Bible."
Theodore Roosevelt

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
John Adams

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
Thomas Jefferson


Honorable mentions for those who didn't hold the office but who sound like they could have:

"Character is much easier kept than recovered."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 13

"Half the Truth is often a great Lie."
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1758

If you'd like to read more quotes from these American leaders, click here:Bookshelf - United States Presidents