When I was a kid someone once referred to Nov 11th as Armistice Day. They continued by saying that on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour - the War to End All Wars ended. I have NO idea who said this to me. But for whatever reason it stuck. And even though we Americans call Nov. 11 Veterans Day, I always think of the Armistice as well. The British celebrate Nov. 11 too and red poppies are associated with their day of remembrance. The point being that individuals and groups have memories of events and people that may last longer than the original event or person.
Presidents' Day is another one of those days that started out as one thing and evolved into something different. Feb 22 is President Washington’s birthday and Feb 12 is President Lincoln’s. For many years the country celebrated their birthdays unofficially and separately. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971 and shifted the holiday to the third Monday of February. Marketers quickly recognized that they could play up the three-day weekend and coined the phrase “Presidents' Day”. By the 1980’s the Presidents' Day holiday had become part of the accepted vernacular.
We revere our leaders – especially our presidents. My father took my siblings to Freedom Park when then president Gerald Ford came to Charlotte. I watched Saturday Night Live the night president Bill Clinton played sax on air. My nephew who lives in D.C. still tries to catch a glimpse of the president when the motorcade passes. Love or hate the individual in office – the President of the United States is a special role.
My husband’s cousin is in the service. Several years ago the cousin was stationed in Hawaii and told us a story about playing basketball with some other servicemen. Suddenly the president of the United States appeared and played a few games with them. Can you imagine rubbing elbows (literally) with our nation’s president? (Aside - does the secret service play too? What happens if you foul the leader of the free world?)
Habitat for Humanity proudly claims President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter as our most visible volunteers. The Carters became involved with Habitat in 1984 when the former president led a work group in New York City and helped 19 families in need of decent, affordable shelter by joining a renovation project of a six-story building. Their experience led to the Carter Work Project, an internationally-recognized event, where former President Carter and his wife give a week of their time to help improve and build Habitat homes.
If you will be in Memphis, TN this August you just might see President and Mrs. Carter rubbing elbows with other volunteers in an Uptown neighborhood helping to build a home. As part of this 33rd Carter Work Project volunteers will carry out multiple tasks during the week including: beautification projects, new home construction, repairs, painting, landscaping and Aging in Place projects. The Carters have worked alongside 92,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build, renovate, and repair 3,943 Habitat for Humanity homes. President Carter and his wife generously lend their visibility to bring awareness of the critical need for affordable housing.
No one living actually knew George Washington – but we all know he cannot, could not, tell a lie. His name and legacy of honor remain very much alive in the group consciousness of our nation more than 200 years after his passing. Each Habitat for Humanity home is a legacy of love that provides tangible security for the families who live in them.
This Presidents' Day we pause to thank President Carter and Rosalynn, (married 69 years) for their efforts to end substandard housing and to build strong communities. We thank our supporters who have assisted Habitat Cabarrus to build 142 houses and to serve more than 800 people (including 400 children) right here. And we remind you – if you’re looking for a way to make a difference - we have multiple avenues such as donating, volunteering, and attending our events for you to help build a legacy.