President's Day is traditionally set aside to honor the first and sixteenth presidents. The president of an evangelical seminary explains why George Washington and Abraham Lincoln stand out from their peers.
When George Washington ascended the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City in April 1789 and took the oath as the first president of the United States, there were no rules or precedents to follow. He was the hero of the Revolutionary War and had the full faith and favor of the nation.
Washington could have lavished in the pageantry of a monarchy, similar to the pomp and circumstance of England – but instead, according to Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Washington set a humbler tone.
"President Washington sort of defined the job," Land tells OneNewsNow, "and perhaps most importantly – besides leading us to victory in the Revolution – he voluntarily turned away from power after two terms."
Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, presided over a deeply divided country and faced fierce opposition his entire presidency – so fierce it cost him his life.
"Lincoln is the man who held us together during the great crisis of our Civil War," Land observes, "and at Gettysburg, just months after that terrible, terrible battle [he] said that we are here contending whether 'government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'"
According to Land, Lincoln's task was similar to the one that a deeply divided America faces today. A Ronald Reagan quote, he says, states it nicely:
"[President Reagan] said Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some people could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide."
On this President's Day, says the seminary president, Americans should honor George Washington, the architect of their freedom; and Abraham Lincoln, freedom's fierce defender, by working to make America "one nation, under God."