It is more important to honor Martin Luther King Jr. than to honor blacks.
It is also more important to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln than to honor “Presidents.”
And it is more important to honor Mollie Beattie than to honor women.
What? You’ve never heard of Mollie Beattie?
Black History Month is celebrated each February in the United States and Canada and in October in the UK. This month-long homage highlights contributions of black people and events.
Presidents Day (note the lack of an apostrophe) is a federal holiday here in the United States. We celebrate not on February 12 or February 22 but rather on the third Monday of the month so we can have a three day weekend.
Women’s History Month in March is major commemoration of the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that American women can now own entire properties by bequest or outright purchase. The farmhouse we bought in Vermont came with an interesting history: the first Mrs. Stevens to live here outlived the first Mr. Stevens to live here (this was originally the Stevens farm). Mr. Stevens, apparently worried that his children would turn their mother out, bequeathed to her the use of a bedroom, “cooking facilities,” and the cellar for storage.
I’m glad that American politicians can now spend endless time on world-altering events like declaring holidays and then going on them.
And I’m glad that Americans, whether black or white or purple or green can now buy houses, build businesses, go to school, marry, and vote. When I lived in New Jersey, the election judge who signed me in was a black man named Harper. He looked at my ID, looked at his name badge, and looked at my ID again.
“Oh,” he said, “You’re from the other side of the family.”
I was pleased but someday, we won’t notice which side of the family we came from.
We certainly need Presidents. Without them, Congress would have run amok with all this holidaying far sooner and the now-233 year history of this particular democratic experiment would have been written in about 87 years.
Martin Luther King Jr. started out as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama. As arguably the strongest voice for civil rights, he was first a man people might never heard of.
Mollie Beattie was a Vermonter and the first woman to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As arguably the strongest single voice for wildlife conservation, she was a woman most people still have never heard of.
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are larger than life now but they were just George and Abe to their families and to the people nearest them.
They all gave us something more. George and Abe share two important traits with Martin and Mollie: they did more than they thought they would and they all inspired us to do more than we thought we could. That’s heroic.
We need heroes. When we honor mere Presidents, all we get is another sale.