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After his father died when George was eleven, George's mother, Mary, a tough and driven woman, struggled to hold their home together with the help of her two sons from a previous marriage. Although he never received more than an elementary school education, young George displayed a gift for mathematics.


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This knack for numbers combined with his quiet confidence and ambition caught the attention of Lord Fairfax, head of one of the most powerful families in Virginia. While working for Lord Fairfax as a surveyor at the age of sixteen, the young Washington traveled deep into the American wilderness for weeks at a time.

Because he could be trusted with power, he made the presidency possible. In one of the most famous addresses in American history, Washington declines to seek a third term as President, and he thanks the American people for entrusting him with the position.

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University of Virginia Miller Center. It is one of eleven permanent holidays established by Congress. Federal holidays apply only to the federal government and the District of Columbia; Congress has never declared a national holiday binding in all states and each state decides its own legal holidays.

George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, , according to the then-used Julian calendar. In , however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved Washington's birthday a year and 11 days to February 22, Americans celebrated Washington's Birthday long before Congress declared it a federal holiday.

The centennial of his birth prompted festivities nationally and Congress established a Joint Committee to arrange for the occasion. At the recommendation of the Committee, chaired by Henry Clay of the Senate and Philemon Thomas of the House, Congress adjourned on February 22, out of respect for Washington's memory and in commemoration of his birth. Prompted by a memorial from the mayor and other citizens of Philadelphia, the House and Senate commemorated the th Anniversary of Washington's birth by reading aloud his Farewell Address.

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In a special joint session held in the House Chamber, the House and Senate, along with several cabinet officials, Justices of the Supreme Court and high-ranking officers of the Army and Navy, gathered to listen to the Secretary of State read the address aloud. Eventually, the reading of George Washington's Farewell Address became an annual event for the Senate, a tradition that is still observed to this day.


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Washington's Birthday, however, did not become a legal holiday until January 31, when Congress added February 22nd to the list of holidays to be observed by federal employees in the District of Columbia.