On July 30th, 2020, former President Barack Obama suggested turning Election Day into a National Holiday. “Naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is a fine tribute,” said the former Commander-in-Chief in the eulogy he gave for Congressman John Lewis. “But, John wouldn’t want us to stop there, just trying to get back to where we already were.”
It’s only right to honor the late civil rights hero in that fashion, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (who I’m proud to say is a Democratic Representative from my home State of South Carolina) vouched for his long-time friend in making it happen. According to what one of his spokespersons told CNN, on the Sunday before Lewis’ funeral Congressman Clyburn offered legislation to change the name of H.R 24.
The very next day, the House approved his proposal, and now his dear deceased friend will be even more remembered for the sacrifices that they both made while battling segregation and racial hatred side by side in the 1960’s.
Mr. Obama obviously is happy about it, being that he’s seen Congressman Lewis as a mentor for so many years. “Once we’d passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better,” he continued in the eulogy. “By making sure that every American is automatically registered to vote, including former inmates who’ve earned their second chance. By adding polling places and expanding early voting. And, by making Election Day a National Holiday, so if you are somebody who’s working in a factory, or you’re a single mom who’s got to go to her job and doesn’t get time off, you can still cast your ballot.”
What’s the Difference Between a National and Federal Holiday?
When you Google search National Holidays in the U.S., then do a search for Federal Holidays in the U.S., the same holidays pop up. Those are the main ten that we all know, which are Christmas and New Year’s, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday, President George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and, my favorite National/Federal Holiday, Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Turkey Day.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word holiday itself means “holy day”. In my opinion, the dictionary is wrong this time. I mean, what’s so holy about a holiday like Groundhogs Day? And God knows the devil comes out of me on April Fool’s Day (at least the people who I pull pranks on think so). On top of that, we purposefully celebrate fictional serial killers on Halloween. How in the hell is that holy?
I was surprised after I researched a little more, and found out that it was actually true. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, holiday derives from the Old English term haligdæg, which means “holy or consecrated day”. If that’s the case, then whoever invented some of the holidays that we celebrate in America must have been drinking too much Old English instead of studying it.
Anyway, the difference between a Federal Holiday and a National Holiday is that National Holidays are also defined as celebrations that represent a nation’s birth or its gaining of independence. The closest thing that we have to a National Holiday in the United States is Independence Day. That particular day has one of the primary traits of an actual National Holiday, because July 4th, 1776 represents the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. being born as an independent nation.
But, States still have the right to decide whether or not they want to recognize those days as such. For example, it took the State of Iowa until the year 1999 to recognize MLK Day as a National/Federal Holiday, a days when banks, schools, post and government offices are supposed to be closed.
A National Holiday is also defined a legal one that’s not created by any State or Local authorities, but by the central government of an entire nation. It is celebrated throughout a nation. To, me, this means that all businesses should be closed in observance of that particular holiday. But, realistically, that’s just not going to happen, I don’t think.
So, on a day such as Election Day, in addition to it being made a National/Federal Holiday, all U.S. employers (not just the ones in Rhode Island and Massachusetts), should be required to give their workers the option of taking a paid day off on National Holidays.
Should Election Day Be Made Into a National Holiday?
Employees who work in certain places outside of the United States have it so much better than us when it comes to getting time off for things like holidays. Take the European Union (EU), for example. According to a September 2019 report from the Society for Human Resource Management, workers in Spain are entitled to at least thirty paid days of annual holiday time off.
In the EU, they have what is called the Working Time Derivative, which guarantees four weeks off every year. So, if you work in a place such as the United Kingdom, you’d automatically get those weeks of paid holiday time.
So, to answer the question in the header, do I think Election Day in America should be a National Holiday? Well, seeing as how the only two States in this nation that require companies to offer paid time off to their employees on National Holidays are Rhode Island and Massachusetts, yes I do.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Especially in an election year like this one, with the type of leadership we have in our government right now.