Celebrate all holidays

Growing up as a child, my favorite holiday of the year was President’s Day: a three-day weekend in the middle of February while I was in elementary school. It was memorable, in part, because it was the one day a year my oldest sister and I hung out together.

Dinner on President’s Day was also always memorable. Mother would cook a gingerbread cake for dessert, and we would share Abraham Lincoln’s favorite dessert.

Somewhere along the way, we started celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day instead of President’s Day. No longer was I able to enjoy a three-day weekend in February because the school authorities decided we couldn’t have that many days off during the spring semester and still have an adequate education.

I don’t think they made the right decision. Part of being an American citizen is participating in American holidays, and President’s Day is one of the most important. The day is between the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington’s, arguably the two most important presidents in American history.

Other days are also important for celebration and reflection: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day.

IU only recognizes four American holidays: Martin Luther Jr. King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day, a fact that might come as a surprise to many people.

Take any new student who assumed we would not have school on Labor Day , a day dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. This is an important holiday because it celebrates the efforts of the common working individual. But IU has seen fit for students and faculty (but not staff — they have the day off) to work on this day.

We also miss Columbus Day, the day we choose to remember Christopher Columbus, who in 1492 sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and discovered what eventually became known as America. Whether you believe Columbus to be a hero, he is an individual certainly worth remembering. Again, everyone at IU spends this day in class or at work.

On Veterans’ Day, we celebrate the men and women who fought for the freedom of this nation during all the wars: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf War, just to name a few. At IU, we do not spend the day remembering the men and women who have fought for our nation and died; we instead spend it in the classroom, doing our regular studies.

Which brings us full circle to examine the four days that we, as a university, have chosen to celebrate, starting with Independence Day. Without a doubt, this is the single-most important holiday on the American calendar. Commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this day celebrates the independence of the United States of America from King George of England.

Thanksgiving is the next holiday on IU’s calendar, a day established by the pilgrims who came to America for religious freedom. Usually celebrated shortly after the fall harvest, this was a time to gather and celebrate. In most respects, this holiday celebrates the enduring American can-do spirit to overcome the greatest odds.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the newest national holiday on the calendar, added in 1983; this holiday celebrates the man who pushed for a fundamental change in the relationship between the races. The day offers many reminders of the distance we have traveled toward better race relations since the end of World War II, but it also reminds me of the distance we have yet to travel.

Memorial Day, established in 1948, is our designated day to remember those who have died fighting in wars. This is, without a doubt, another important American holiday: a day to pause and reflect upon those who really have paid the ultimate price for your and my freedom.

But is any one holiday more important than another?

I believe none of the holidays are more or less important than any of the others, and as such, we need to celebrate all of them. University administrators should not pick the holidays we celebrate based on a quasi-popularity contest, as it seems to be done now. As a nation, we’ve selected these days to celebrate our heritage, and IU should choose to celebrate these days as well.


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