Presidents on Government

Presidents Day

The federal holiday honoring George Washington began in 1880 in the District of Columbia and expanded in 1885 to include all of the Federal Government. It was celebrated on Washington’s birthday, February 22. In 1971 the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February and as such never falls on Washington’s actual birthday.

In the 1980s the term “Presidents Day” began its public appearance. Although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, approximately a dozen state governments have officially renamed their Washington’s Birthday observances as “Presidents Day”, “Washington and Lincoln Day”, such as Utah, or other such designations.

Collected herein is a quote from each president about government. Do you have a favorite?

The Presidents Series

Rickety signature.


  1. President Obama relates the presence of government to the presence of food. It has the connotation that the presense of government = presense of food therefore government is good and we should have more of it. The government is not our enemy, it gives us food. His logic is flawed because the people feed themselves, it is the failed governments that make the people unable to feed themselves (maybe the governments failed in the first place because they thought they had to feed the people?).

    Ironic twist of logic.

    Leave people alone so they can feed themselves.

    • According to the Wall Street Journal, 43.6 million Americans rely on food stamps. More than 14% of the population drew food stamps in November 2010 to purchase groceries. Compared to a year ago, the number of people receiving food stamps was up 14.2%.

      In both Washington, D.C. and Mississippi more than a fifth of residents received food stamps.

      Methinks there is something wrong with the system. It will take more than government to fix it. How? Maybe one could start here.

    • I agree, although I think it is important to balance the following: “[No one] should receive UNEARNED welfare assistance from local or national agencies” (Benson); and “ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish” (Mosiah 4:16).

      I also consider the unpaid/volunteer leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a form of government. Therefore, when Obama says government’s “fundamental role,” I believe he is referring to a similar role of a church government, that is: to build up a people that are self-sustaining, caring, and willing to stretch forth their hands to those that stand in need. He may believe that the only way to do that is by obligation or law, but I think we can reach the same goal through charity, or the pure love of Christ. It is not government’s role to provide for it’s people, yet it is government’s role to protect the environment where we can provide for and sustain each other.

      Ezra Taft Benson, “Ministering to Needs through the Lord’s Storehouse System” 1977 – quote reads: “Latter-day Saints should not receive UNEARNED welfare assistance from local or national agencies.”

      Book of Mormon, Mosiah 4:16

      • I would have thought if Obama was including church government in his statement he would have said so. Also, if welfare is provided it should be done by the states or the people, not by national government.

        As the poor are likely to be with us for a long time, the principles you outlined are important and should be taught to the people at every opportunity.

        • I don’t think he was including church government, I think he believes that the role of a national government is the same as the role of church governments: to build up a people that are self-sustaining, caring, and willing to stretch forth their hands to those that stand in need.

          You said it well, this is the role of state and local governments. But look at the LDS Church welfare program, driven primarily by local church leaders, but under the direction of a central policy. That, too, should be the role of national government, providing the guidelines for state and local governments to help in achieving a similar goal.

          • Better said: I think he believes the role of national government is to build a people that are self sustaining, etc., which is the same role of church governments.

  2. So does anyone think Nixon really said that about women? I’m curious if there are others who agree with it or who would dare say so..

    • He also said, “I’m not for women, frankly, in any job. I don’t want any of them around. Thank God we don’t have any in the Cabinet.” Apparently that came from Nixon’s own surveillance system. Nixon also personally believed women should never be on the Supreme Court, according to John Dean. (See Slate)

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