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President's Day: Who's Next?

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By Samantha Hayes, Washington, D.C.

I hadn't given President's Day much thought until I noticed, during my Saturday afternoon run which included a jaunt through The Mall, an unusually large number of tourists.

Of course it makes sense to come to the nation's capital on this three-day weekend, but for most Americans, President's Day is often signaled by sales advertisements in the paper and on television.

Patriotism.org says the original intent of President's Day was to commemorate the birthday of George Washington in 1796, which was the last full year of his presidency.  

Later on, Abraham Lincoln's February birthday was also recognized. The first formal observance took place in 1865, a year after his assassination.

Nearly one hundred years later, legislation was enacted that set aside the third Monday in February to combine several federal holidays, one of them being Washington's birthday.  But now its expanded to recognize all the presidents.

So in the spirit of President's Day, we can look forward to 2009 when we will add number forty-four to the list.

It's down to three possibilities: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain.

Of course, they all have political advantages and disadvantages...depending on what side of the aisle you stand on.

Barack Obama, at 46 years old, faces criticism over his age and experience.  But a fellow Democrat, John F. Kennedy, was younger than Obama when elected- 43 years old.  Republican Ronald Reagan was the oldest at 69.  That records stands to be broken if John McCain, 71, wins the White House.

"Change" has been an overriding theme of the 2008 election. Especially among the Democratic candidates.  Being a "Washington outsider" always seems to be a check in the plus column.  But all the candidates in the race now, with the exception of Mike Huckabee, have Capitol Hill experience.

So who has come to the White House from outside the Beltway? If you consider never serving in Congress the qualification, there are eighteen. They include George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delanore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and our current President, George W. Bush.

History books will have much more to add on November 5th.  America may elect its first female president, or the first African-American man.

I thought about that later as I joined hundreds of other tourists standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last weekend, looking down at the marker where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28th, 1963, almost forty-five years ago. 

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