It’s fascinating when you search the meaning or genesis of something. No matter how much you think you know, there’s always something new to learn. President’s Day is actually not the official name of the holiday celebrated the third Monday in February. It’s still officially “Washington’s Birthday.”

“Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.”

This new nugget of information posed a second question: what American presidents are considered the most famous and, more importantly, why? Many of us may have favorite choices, but there seems to be consensus and caveats depending on whom and when you ask.  The most famous, effective or memorable U.S. presidents are a matter of scholarly and public opinion. Past presidents are scored and rated on different criteria and measured and remembered differently depending on present circumstances. Time has been both kind and cruel in depicting some presidents, and for some, time has yet to reveal how they will be remembered.

George Washington, the President for whom this federal holiday began, was the first United States President. For that reason alone, he is widely revered and honored as the most famous forefather of our nation.  Although he will always be remembered for being the first U.S. President, he has seldom been ranked as the most influential, famous or effective. Washington rates consistently among the top two or three by the voting academic and public. As America’s first president, Washington understood the precedent he would establish for future leaders. He will be remembered as a man of strength of character, integrity and one intent on establishing and upholding national purpose.

So, what president ranks as # 1?  Since he served as president beginning in 1861, Abraham Lincoln is widely and consistently regarded as the most important United States president by the voting and rating populace of historians, scholars and the public at large. Time has neither vainly glorified nor diminished the impact Lincoln made on American history.

Perhaps Lincoln most embodies and reflects the values that American hold dear – courage, conviction, justice and equality.  Lincoln personifies the very best of our national values, and his fight for freedom and equality for the oppressed, enslaved, impoverished and uneducated brought about historical reform and restored our nation’s dignity and character after a divisive Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer, legislator and vehement and vocal opponent of slavery.  Lincoln was a shrewd military strategist and led the Union’s fight for freedom and ultimate victory. His Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery and the Gettysburg Address is a great oratory in American history. Lincoln will be remembered as a leader who fought and died for the cause of liberty.

Together with a grateful nation, we honor the courage, conviction and contributions of our national statesmen and American presidents. They are the founders of a mighty nation and the foundation of a country built upon justice, equality and the preservation of human rights.

Happy Presidents Day.