Monday, February 16, 2004

Barbecue Day

A student sent this letter to Jolene Koester, the president of my university, and for some reason I was CC’ed (along with two other people). I figure it’s an open letter, but just in case it’s not, I’m leaving out the student’s name.
I will not be attending class today. This day is a national holiday set aside to honor the presidents of the United States of America, especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These men showed uncommon courage and leadership in successfully leading our country through some of the most difficult times in history. I could elaborate, but there are volumes of historical information about these and all the other US presidents.

In addition to the above-mentioned leaders, this “Presidents Day” holiday has been expanded to include honor to ALL the American presidents, regardless of political persuasion. And since this fine institution receives federal funding (approved by the president), it only seems consistent that the faculty, administration and students of Cal State Northridge acknowledge this day. I do hope that this scheduling error is corrected so that next year, we all will be able to reflect on this nation without whose leaders the world would not know the meaning of freedom and democracy.
My first reaction was to snort; I figure this student is less concerned about honoring freedom and democracy than attending a backyard barbecue. But then I thought, what’s wrong with that? Lucky for me, I don’t teach on Mondays, so I’ll be attending a barbecue myself – not because I admire the presidents (I can count the ones I truly admire on one hand), but because I like barbecue. And it is pretty bizarre that CSUN takes off Cesar Chavez Day but not Presidents’ Day. Setting aside the question of which day is more worth celebrating, there’s something to be said for the coordinating function of holidays: it’s easier to organize fun activities when everyone gets the same day off work. Given that most people in this country celebrate Presidents’ Day, not Cesar Chavez Day, CSUN’s calendar is just a little bit off.

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