By Cathy Mounce, Register Staff Writer
“John F. Kennedy was my favorite president,” said long time Gainesville resident Kanita Maxwell as she reflected on the meaning of Presidents Day which fell on Monday.
Maxwell left Gainesville in 1958 to spend several years in Washington as a member of the staff of democratic senator Ralph Yarborough. She returned to Gainesville in 1973 and spent several years working at Gainesville Memorial Hospital.
“I actually met President Kennedy when he was still a senator,” she said. “His Presidential Inaugural Address was wonderful and his words of ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ have always been an inspiration to me.”
Maxwell was one of thousands of that generation who took to heart President Kennedy’s request. She has spent a lifetime volunteering and “doing for others” as a member of various service organizations in Gainesville.
She reflects on her years in Washington and remembers her favorite president each Presidents’ Day.
For many, however, Presidents’ day is just a convenient three day weekend.
Initially established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, the holiday is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government.
Originally celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday of February 22, in 1971 it was moved to be a part of the Uniform Monday Holiday act which would provide for three day weekends for the nation’s workers.
Today, it is viewed as a day to celebrate all United States presidents past and present and is celebrated on the third Monday in February.