Father’s Day Salute
Forty years ago, Richard Nixon was reelected to a second term as president of the United States. One significant act of his presidency was his official affirmation of a holiday that achieved presidential recognition during the tenure in office of his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson. In 1966, Johnson acknowledged Father’s Day as a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. It was Nixon, however, who signed Father’s Day into law on Apr. 25, 1972.
Nixon and Johnson were not the only United States presidents to acknowledge Father’s Day. Father’s Day was first celebrated June 19, 1910 at the behest of Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children reared by her single-parent father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, after her mother died. Unofficial support from such figures as William Jennings Bryan was immediate and widespread, resulting in President Woodrow Wilson being personally feted by his family in 1916 and President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 recommending that states hold their own Father’s Day celebrations. It took Nixon to finally accord Father’s Day the importance it deserves on a national level.
Even with presidential support for their day of recognition, in present-day society fathers many times are portrayed as objects of derision and scorn, especially in the popular media. Many dads in sit-coms or commercials, be they portrayed by real actors or animated caricatures, are depicted as barely able to tie their own shoes without help. It is usually mother who saves the day. This is unfortunate, because a growing body of research demonstrates that fathers do much more than contribute half the DNA of their offspring. Children who achieve most, have the most self-confidence and are best equipped to take on an increasingly complicated and confusing world are usually those who have grown up in an environment where a father or father figure was part of their daily lives.
Little girls learn from their fathers how to interact with men and what they should expect from the men who will enter their lives as they progress to adulthood. Little boys grow to manhood defining their maleness by the precept and example of their fathers. These father figures many times are not biological parents. Many instances come to mind in which a concerned male figure played an important role in a child’s growth and development simply by his presence and his willingness to give even a little of his time and attention to a youngster.
Thousands of single mothers are raising children to be happy, successful human beings without any kind of male assistance, and we salute them. Several prominently featured news stories in recent weeks have noted cases of children who have, for all intents and purposes, raised themselves. Some of these orphans with living parents are headed for Ivy League universities after years of working one or several part-time jobs to support themselves and, in some cases, their siblings. In most cases, however, somewhere, at some time, in some way, a father figure of some sort or another played a significant role in forming the character and personality of the young man or woman who is poised on the threshold of a promising future today.
The importance of fathers and father figures cannot be understated or ignored. It is fitting that on this Father’s Day 2012 that, along with the ties and aftershave and greeting cards with the drawings of fishing rods and mallard ducks in flight, we acknowledge and honor fathers and the men, some of them related by blood or marriage, some not, yet who sometimes act in their stead, for the significant role they play in making us who we are. We wish them all a Happy Father’s Day.