February is the month when we celebrate President's Day. Years ago, students knew that Feb. 12 was Lincoln's Birthday and Feb. 22 was Washington's Birthday.

It was a time when their lives and their contributions to America were stressed. What do contributions made by these two men, other presidents, and other Americans of the past have to say to us today?

President Woodrow Wilson in a speech in Denver in 1911 said, "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about."

He further said, "The history of liberty is resist, therefore, the concentration of power, we are resisting the powers of death, because concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human liberties."

In 1811, John Adams said this: "This form of government is productive of everything which is great and excellent among men. But its principles are as easily destroyed as human nature is corrupted ... A government is only to be supported by pure religion or austere morals. Private and public virtue is the only foundation of republics."

John Quincy Adams made this statement: "Posterity -- you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."

Another Adams, Samuel, stated: "He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power who is not a wise and virtuous man ... The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people."

George Washington, who had been unanimously elected as president of the Constitutional Convention on May 14, 1787, said this: "If to please the people we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God."

Calvin Coolidge said in 1923, "The strength of our country is the strength of its religious convictions."

On June 14, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower supported and signed into law the Congressional Act adding the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. He then said, "In this way we are affirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war." He then stood on the steps of the Capitol and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson said, "No power over the freedom of religion is delegated to the United States by the Constitution." On Sept. 11, 1804 he said, "Nothing in the Constitution has given them (the federal judges) a right to decide for the executive, more than to the executive to decide for them ... But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional, and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action, but for the legislature and executive also in their spheres, would make the judiciary a despotic branch."

On Sept. 6, 1849, he said, "The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which may twist and shape into any form they please."

President John Kennedy, in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1961, said, "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."

President Abraham Lincoln in a speech delivered at Independence Hall, Pa., on Feb. 22, 1861, said, "The Declaration of Independence which gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it." The next day he said, "Freedom is the natural condition of the human race, in which the Almighty intended men to live. Those who fight the purpose of the Almighty will not succeed. They always have been, they always will be beaten."

During the Civil War, Lincoln overheard someone remark that he hoped "the Lord was on the Union's side." Lincoln responded with "I am not all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."

President Ronald Reagan on Jan. 25, 1984, said, "America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautions in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it's all right to keep asking if we're on His side."

President Theodore Roosevelt said on March 4, 1905, "No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boostfulness in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver of good who blessed us."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a mid-Atlantic summit meeting with Winston Churchill asked the crew of an American warship to join in singing "Onward, Chrisitan Soldiers." Following the singing, he described the United States as "The lasting concord between men and nations, founded on the principles of Christianity."

On Feb. 29, 1892, after searching many documents, this was the conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States: "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise: and in this sense and to its extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian."

In a speech on June 3, 1984, Daniel Webster exclaimed: "God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it."

President Woodrow Wilson, when delivering a message at Gettysburg, Pa., said, "Here is the nation God has builded by our hands. What shall we do with it?"

In light of Wilson's question, where are we today? What will history say about us?

Arris Johnson, Hays, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.