On June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Smart Dodd in honor of her father, civil war veteran William Jackson Smart. Slowly the idea spread, but it wasn’t until 1972, when President Richard M. Nixon signed the proclamation establishing the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day, that it became a national holiday. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan reaffirmed that proclamation with words that, for us, have become synonymous with fatherhood.
“Today, fatherhood is sometimes drily described as a craft or an occupation, something which competes with career or outside pursuits for time and attention. Contemporary books and articles offer reams of advice to mothers and fathers on how to improve as parents and better manage their time at home and with their children. In this era of new demands and stresses on families, we frequently forget just what it is that is special about fatherhood, what makes it not a part of life, but a path in life that has, in every generation, the power to create and renew.
“Fatherhood, after all, is about childhood. Fatherhood is walking the floor at midnight with a sick baby that cannot sleep; fatherhood is an arm around the shoulders of a child crying because a balloon is lost; fatherhood is repairing a bicycle wheel for the umpteenth time knowing that it won’t last more than the afternoon.
“Fatherhood is guiding a youth through the wilderness of adolescence toward the vast expanse of adulthood; fatherhood is holding tight when all else seems to be falling apart; and fatherhood is letting go when it is time to part. Fatherhood is long hours at the blast furnace or in the fields, behind the wheel or in front of a computer screen, working a 12-hour shift or doing a six-month tour of duty.
“In short, fatherhood is giving one’s all, from a child’s first day of life on, from the break of day to its end – on the job, in the household, but, most of all, in the heart.
“From the vantage point of his love and responsibility, a father sees the future and dedicates himself to doing whatever is necessary to bring his family safely through. No father performs any of these tasks with thought of thanks or reward. The things that gratify him most are those that represent success in what he has labored to impart to his children: strength of character and conviction, love of family and country, a sense of right and wrong, and, above all, a spirit of thanksgiving for the generous gift of life itself.
“Because human nature often keeps us from recognizing how great another’s sacrifice is until we assume similar burdens, many of us realize for the first time how dearly we were prized only when we ourselves become parents. On this day for fathers, all of us have a special opportunity to say thanks to America’s dads for their selflessness and devotion. We also have a chance to say a prayer for fathers everywhere – for their health and strength if they are with us, or for their blessing if this day finds them smiling down from heaven’s bright corridors. Truly, for the labor and legacy of our families and our freedoms, we cannot thank them enough.”
We could not have said it better.
For many of us, our definition of father includes step-fathers and fathers-in-law and, sometimes, just really good friends who step into the role of father simply through their influence on our lives. To all of the men you celebrate as dads, we say, “Happy Father’s Day!”