George Washington's Birthday
Celebrate the 283rd anniversary of George Washington’s birthday with a series of celebrations that recognize his legacy of leadership. All university events are free and open to GW students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends. Please join us to honor, rejoice, and learn more about our namesake.
The 4th Annual George Washington Lecture: George Washington and Slavery
Thursday, February 19
Marvin Center, Third Floor
With guest speaker Dr. Philip Morgan from Johns Hopkins University.
George Washington’s life was inextricably entwined with the institution of slavery. Over time, he became further and further immersed in the system; and he and his slaves became ever more entangled with one another. Eventually, he would try to extricate himself from the institution’s embrace, with significant repercussions for himself and for his slaves.
This annual tradition explores Washington’s influence by examining him from a modern-day perspective. Former guest speakers include Pulitzer Prize-winner Gordon Wood and Edward Lengel, editor-in-chief of the Papers of George Washington. Register for the event.
Mount Vernon to Mount Vernon
Sunday, February 22
Shuttles available at the Mount Vernon and Foggy Bottom Campuses
In partnership with George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria, Virginia, you are invited to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Washington’s tomb and a tour of the mansion that the first President of the United States called home for more than 40 years.
Free admission and transportation to the estate are included. Register for the event.
George Washington’s Birthday Bonfire
Sunday, February 22, 2015
This event honors the father of our country, and the university’s namesake, with the lighting of a bonfire in the middle of University Yard. Enjoy a short speaking program, listen to period and contemporary music, roast marshmallow, and create s’mores.
In the event of adverse weather, the celebration will be held in the Marc C. Abrahms Great Hall in the Cloyd Heck Marvin Center.
George's Birthday Bashes
GW alumni will celebrate George Washington's birthday in 55 cities around the world. For more information on and to register for these events, visit the alumni calendar.
Washington’s Birthday or President’s Day?
The holiday is popularly known as President’s Day but it is officially recognized as “Washington’s Birthday” through a Congressional bill passed in 1879. Regrettably, the recognition will never fall on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. The Monday Holiday Law, passed in 1968, creates 3-day weekends for federal holidays and moved Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday in February.
History of federally recognizing Washington’s Birthday
U.S. Code Title 5, section 6103, officially naming the holiday “Washington’s Birthday”
Congressional Celebration of Washington’s Birthday
The first Congressional recognition of Washington’s Birthday, February 22, was in 1862, when Secretary of the Senate, John W. Forney, read George Washington’s Farewell Address to the People of the United States. In celebration of the centennial year of the Constitution’s ratification in 1888, the Senate’s presiding officer again read the Address on February 22.
The annual tradition of the Senate observing Washington’s Birthday began in 1896 and has continued every year since. A senator, chosen by the governing body and from alternate parties each year, reads the 7,641-word statement while the Congress is in session. At the conclusion of each reading, the senator inscribes his or her name in a black, leather-bound book maintained by the Secretary of the Senate.