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Presidents Day: A few facts for the day off

As the Presidents Day holiday awaits us on Monday, it may be helpful to point to a new car ad on television, one that, while humorous, casts some light on the question of just how well-informed Americans are about the history of our nation’s elected chiefs.

In the ad, actors who are comically dressed as Abe Lincoln and George Washington talk about what great fuel savings they are getting, and the visual punch line is that the guy manning the gasoline pump is Benjamin Franklin.

Okay, Ben was a great American figure, but he was never president. Did the makers of the ad know that? Are they playing off their perception that consumers believe him to have once held the job?

Franklin was one of our greatest statesmen — as well as a scientist, which might explain the advertisers’ placing him in role of the actual fuel delivery, but further irony is that Ben would likely have picked apart such a notion with his famed talent at satire.

Monday, Feb. 18, is a federal holiday, and a time to consider our nation’s leaders as more than stock figures to sell products.

In some ways the presidents have to be considered as 43 of the most interesting people in American history.

For instance, Harry Truman started as a county judge, and never had a campaign slogan.

James Madison was the first president who had served as a Congressman, and his vice president was George Clinton.

Bill Clinton’s middle name, of course, is Jefferson.

William Taft, at 300 pounds the largest president ever, was also an adept dancer and tennis player.

President Obama gave his State of the Union address this week at about the same point in late January or early February as presidents traditionally do. However, the Constitution merely states that “he shall from time to time give information on the state of the union.”

The above gender designation itself presents a potential Constitutional law conundrum — reason enough to have some grounding in presidential and Executive Branch history.

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Holiday closures:

The following will be closed in observance of the holiday:

Post offices

Federal, state and county offices

Banks

Hood River County School District

Hood River County libraries

Horizon Christian School

Open:

The Hood River Aquatic Center will hold open swim from 1-3:30 p.m. and 6:30-8.

Hood River Garbage will be running on its usual schedule, and its office will be open.

The Hood River News office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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