Once upon a time not so long ago, Americans celebrated Abraham Lincoln's birthday on February 12th and George Washington's birthday on February 22nd. The creation of President's Day by Congress certainly added a 3-day weekend of relaxation for Americans but in the process we've lost an annual focus on the exceptional leadership of these two men and what inspired them during times of adversity.
What Washington and Lincoln had in common was they were both nature boys. While Lincoln grew up in a log cabin and Washington on a plantation, both were part of an agricultural society where interacting and being close to nature informed their upbringing and politics.
Mostly lost in modern holiday celebrations is how both the Age of Reason and direct observation of nature influenced our early leaders in molding and later preserving our democracy. While it is still debatable whether Washington and Lincoln were in fact deists, it is unmistakable that they believed in divine creation, man/woman's ability to reason, and the ability for humans to behave morally.
They looked to nature for models of how systems and animals integrated together to work in harmony. Washington sought to bring 'a more perfect union' and Lincoln to save 'a house divided against itself.'
Today, instead of shopping and 'hanging out,' let's take our children for a walk in nature and reflect on how our natural environment shaped both our presidents' lives and our national identity.