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Observing Presidents Day

Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2023 at 1:40 am

By Woodrow Polston

Presidents’ Day will be observed on Monday, Feb. 20 this year. The holiday was originally established in 1885, in recognition of President George Washington’s birthday, which was on Feb. 11, 1731. The federal holiday honoring Washington was implemented by an act of Congress in 1879 for government offices in Washington, D.C., and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices. The holiday became commonly known as Presidents’ Day after Jan. 1, 1971, when the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. In observance of Presidents’ Day, here are some interesting facts about presidents, the Secret Service, and the security measures that protect them.
Days before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln had a dream that there was a funeral taking place at the White House. In his dream, he asked a soldier, ‘who is dead in the White House?’ The soldier responded and said that the president was dead and that he had been shot by an assassin. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who would serve as the next elected president after Johnson completed Lincoln’s second term, had been formally invited to Ford’s theater to spend the evening with Lincoln on the night that he was assassinated. The invitation was fatefully declined, as the Grants had already made plans to visit their children in New Jersey.
While running for re-election against Bill Clinton in September of 1992, President George H.W. Bush had a last-minute route change coordinated on his way to a speech in Oklahoma, after a psychic had a vision of an assassination attempt near an overpass on the highway. She had stated that in her vision the president had exited his plane in a jacket and collared shirt, and that he got into the backseat of the limo behind the driver. Secret service agents wrote her off because Bush was expected to be wearing a suit and tie, and the fact that it was protocol for the president to sit on the right side of the backseat while traveling. Agents became alarmed when Bush exited the plane wearing a light jacket and a collared shirt. A psychic’s vision seemed to be unfolding as he entered the rear of the limo on the left side directly behind the driver, due to the fact that he had several associates meet him at the limo that had already taken the right-hand side of the back seat. A potential assassination had been avoided, and the president didn’t even know about it.
Concerning the security of the president, it was only after William McKinley was shot in 1901 that systematic and continuous protection of the president was instituted. According to the book, “In the Presidents Secret Service,” by Ronald Kessler, It wasn’t until after the Kennedy assassination that the Secret Service finally began to really beef up its protocol and staff. The Secret Service receives an average of 10 threats a day against those whom they protect, and usually against the president. Knowingly and willingly threatening a president is a federal violation, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The law also covers a president-elect, vice president and anyone in succession to the president. Although there are doubtless scores of Secret Security measures that are in practice today, there are little known steps that Secret Service agents commonly take to protect the president available to the public, such as follows.
While dining in a restaurant, it is common for agents to be seated at tables near the president, while other agents join the kitchen staff to observe the preparation of the president’s meal. When the president stays in a hotel, the Secret Service secures the entire floor that the president is on. If the president is using an elevator in the hotel, an elevator repairman is hired to be on standby in the event that the elevator stalls while the president is in it. The windows of the presidential limo consist of five-inch thick bulletproof glass, and the puncture resistant tires are made of reinforced Kevlar on steel rims. All presidents and first ladies are given code names assigned by the Secret Service. Any suspected assassin is code named “the jackal.” Although there have been many assassination attempts over the years, some nearly successful, only four U.S. presidents have been assassinated to date.