Politics & Government

President Trump has declared a national day of patriotism. But what does that mean?

President Donald Trump formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in the President's Room of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington.
President Donald Trump formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in the President's Room of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump hasn’t wasted time implementing some of his policies, signing a law allowing retired Gen. James Mattis to serve as defense secretary and formally nominating several of his Cabinet appointees to the Senate.

But among his actions in his first few hours in office, one in particular had many people scratching their hands.

According to a tweet from the new White House press secretary Sean Spicer Friday afternoon, Trump signed a proclamation for a national day of patriotism.

On Twitter and Facebook, social media users reacted strongly. Some blasted the idea as reminiscent of nationalist holidays celebrated in the USSR and Nazi Germany. Some welcomed it as part of Trump’s inaugural pledge to put “America first.” And others asked: Wait, what about the Fourth of July?

First of all, Trump has not created a new annual federal holiday. Congress is the only body that can do that, and they have done so just four times in the past 100 years, per the Washington Post.

But Trump, as with other presidents, can declare a one-time federal holiday, per CNBC. These holidays only legally apply to federal workers and Washington D.C., though many state governments and private businesses also follow them.

When exactly the national day of patriotism will occur is unclear, and it is also uncertain if it will be a national observance or a federal holiday. National observances do not require that businesses or government agencies close.

But the idea of a day commemorating patriotism is actually not a new idea from Trump. Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush signed proclamations declaring national observances on Sept. 11 for the victims of the terrorist attacks in 2001. Bush and Obama both declared those days “Patriot Day,” and Congress also passed a joint resolution requesting the president issue a similar proclamation each year. It is not clear if Trump intends for his national day of patriotism to be the same day.

As for July Fourth, that day, though it is celebrated with displays of patriotism, is formally known as Independence Day.

Others on social media have suggested that Trump will declare the national day of patriotism to be his birthday, June 14, though there is no evidence of this.

Coincidentally, June 14 is already recognized as National Flag Day by a joint proclamation of Congress, commemorating the day the U.S. formally adopted “the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.”

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