Presidents’ Day Invites Studies of Democracy and Freedom

Presidents’ Day Invites Studies of Democracy and Freedom

From the birth of George Washington to the four freedoms outlined by FDR, upcoming opportunities for community-based learning offer Presidents’ Day-inspired ways to explore democracy, freedom, and American history.

Officially known as Washington’s Birthday by the federal government, Presidents’ Day comes every year on the third Monday of February. Once upon a time, Presidents’ Day was celebrated every February 22nd – the true birthday of George Washington. However, thanks to Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971, Presidents’ Day is celebrated on a Monday (along with a handful of other holidays) so as to allow workers more three-day weekends. In addition to an extra day off, Presidents’ Day offers families opportunities to explore democracy and the freedoms that it allows us to enjoy.

At The Clark Art Institute , families can enjoy five days’ worth of celebration, presidential portraits, and hands-on art-making in honor of Presidents’ Day. From Monday, February 15th through Friday, February 19th, The Clark will have Washington-themed art and activities from 1-4pm. Families can visit to see an iconic portrait of George Washington, and can try their hand at re-designing a dollar bill, taking patriotic photos in a photo booth, and taking the first steps to plan their very own presidential campaign. Through the activities offered, families can explore George Washington as an American icon and can use art-making as a means of reflecting their understanding of his impact and importance within American history.

Further Presidents’ Day learning comes in the form of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, as outlined in his famous 1941 State of the Union address. Encompassing the freedoms of speech, worship, want, and fear, these freedoms were outlined by Roosevelt as a means of articulating the need for these – important elements of democracy – to be spread throughout the world. Older learners can enjoy an installment in the Four Freedoms Forum series at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Held on Thursday, February 18th at 5:30pm, Business as Usual? Unraveling Presidential Politics offers a chance to engage in community discourse surrounding the 2016 presidential election candidates. Knowledgeable commentators will add to the discussion, encouraging participants to explore the many different elements of democracy. This event is free, and a reception follows.

In March, the Norman Rockwell Museum brings yet another opportunity to explore the Four Freedoms. The Reimagining the Four Freedoms exhibit will offer creative takes on Roosevelt’s four freedoms. Echoing the sentiment behind Rockwell’s original Four Freedoms illustrations, the pieces in the show offer imaginative takes on each of the freedoms and put the decades old ideas into a modern context and allow the freedoms to be examined through the lens of youth, as the pieces in the show have been created by high school students. For more information, contact the Norman Rockwell Museum at 413-298-4100.

[Image credit: Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828), George Washington, 1796–1803. Oil on canvas. The Clark, 1955.16]

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