The Thing About Today – January 16

January 16, 2020
Day 16 of 366


January 16th is the sixteenth day of the year. It is Teachers’ Day in Myanmar and Thailand.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Fig Newton Day, National Nothing Day, National Without a Scalpel Day, and Get to Know Your Customers Day. That last one is typically celebrated on the third Thursday of each quarter.


Historical items of note:

  • In 27 BCE, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was granted the title Augustus by the Roman Senate. This marked the beginning of the Roman Empire which would last in different forms until 1453 AD.
  • In 1707, the Scottish Parliament ratified the Act of Union. This set the way for the creation of the United Kingdom.
  • In 1920, the League of Nations held its first council meeting in Paris, France.
  • In 1948, director, producer, screenwriter, and composer John Carpenter was born. If you’re not familiar with his catalog of work, go check it out.
  • In 1964, Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway. This began a run of 2,844 performances.
  • In 1969, Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 performed several historical firsts: The first-ever docking of manned spacecraft in orbit; the first-ever transfer of crew from one space vehicle to another; and the only time such a transfer was accomplished with a spacewalk.
  • In 1973, the 440th and final episode of Bonanza first aired.
  • In 1980, actor, playwright, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was born.
  • In 1995, Star Trek: Voyager premiered on the United Paramount Network (UPN).
  • In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off for STS-107, the final mission for the spacecraft. It would disintegrate on re-entry sixteen days later.


January 16th is recognized as National Religious Freedom Day in the United States. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute became the basis for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in the United States Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Establishment Clause is a limitation upon the United States Congress that prevents the government from promoting theocracy or favoring one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from preventing the free exercise of religion. Court rulings have determined that non-religion, such as atheism and secular practices, are also protected.

The government is still allowed to enter the religious domain to make accommodations for religious observances and practices in order to maintain free exercise. It is also allowed to place religious symbols on government premises.

All of it stems back to the author of the original statute: Thomas Jefferson.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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