A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I honestly didn’t think it was a political question.  In my mind, it was just a common, ordinary, garden-variety water cooler icebreaker.

“So,” I said casually as I sipped from my cup and she filled hers, “have you decided how you’re going to celebrate President’s Day this year?”

“Celebrate?” she asked in a huff.  “What’s to celebrate?  That warmonger in the White House?  As far as I’m concerned, President’s Day this year is for mourning – not celebration.”

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to make small talk with someone who has just used the word “warmonger”?  It’s sort of a long way from there to “nice weather we’re having.”

You know?

So I did what any person past 50 would do in that situation: I waxed nostalgic.  Everything triggers a memory from back in the day.  Everything.  Find it and figure out how to flaunt it – preferably with some well-placed meandering from subject to subject, like you’re totally losing it, you know?  and you can worm your way out of any situation.

Or at least change the subject.

“When I was a kid we didn’t have President’s Day,” I said, wistfully.  “We had Lincoln’s Birthday on Feb. 12 and George Washington’s Birthday on Feb. 22.  Or was it Feb. 25?  One of those days was Washington’s birthday, and one was George Alley’s – I always got them confused.  I don’t remember if we got out of school for both birthdays – the presidents, not George’s.  Just Lincoln’s, I think.  That’s probably why Abe was my favorite president . . .”

“That’s part of the problem,” she said, huffiness squared.  “We always remember president’s for the wars they fought.  Lincoln and the Civil War.  Washington and the Revolution.  Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill.  FDR and World War II.  This guy . . .” – I’m pretty sure she was back to the aforementioned “warmonger” at this point – “. . . this guy thinks he has to win a war so he can be remembered with all of those other guys.  So of course he has to go out and start a war first.”

OK – feigned senility didn’t work.  So I tried compromise.

“Well, the good thing is there are plenty of good, peaceful presidents to remember on President’s Day,” I said.  “Kennedy . . . Carter . . . Reagan . . .”

I knew using the R-name was a mistake even before it completely escaped my mouth.  I tried to catch it with my lips before she heard it, but it was too late.  She moved quickly from full huff to near hysteria.

“Don’t even get me started on Reagan . . .”

And then she got started on Reagan.  It was during her diatribe that it occurred to me that a wonderful thing was happening.  When at last she came up for air, I pointed it out to her.

“I think you’ve stumbled onto something here,” I said.

“You mean you agree with my take on Reaganomics?” she asked.

“Well, I’m not sure I understand it,” I admitted.  “It involves . . . you know . . . numbers and stuff.  I don’t do numbers.”

She rolled her eyes.  The huff was back.

“But I do understand this,” I continued.  “You live in a country where you can stand here in a public setting and say anything you want about any president, living or dead, and you don’t have to worry about it.  I’m not going to report you, and even if I did, nobody would care.”

“Least of all,” she grumbled, “that . . . that . . . warmonger.”

And that’s something that is infinitely worth celebrating this President’s Day.

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— © Joseph Walker

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