Honoring Fathers and Other Role Models

Honoring Fathers and Other Role Models

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

According to reporters of history, Sonora Dodd attended one of our nation’s first Mother’s Day church services in the early 1900s. She and her siblings had been raised by their father, a widower, so as she sat in her pew in Spokane, Washington, she was stirred by the idea that fathers also deserved a special day.  A newspaper quoted her as saying, “He was both father and mother to me and my brothers and sisters.”

Dodd made her case to local clergy members, and the first Father’s Day was observed in Spokane in 1910. Dodd spent the following decades advocating for the creation of a national holiday. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation to honor fathers on the third Sunday in June. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed legislation making it a permanent national holiday.

Two years ago, continuing the tradition of issuing an annual Father’s Day proclamation, President Joe Biden wrote, “Every year on Father's Day, we honor the men who help shape our character through their love, guidance, and devotion.” He continued, “On Father's Day, we pay tribute to the dads, stepdads, grandfathers, and father figures who lift us up on their shoulders so that we can reach our full potential. We express our gratitude for all that they sacrifice on our behalf. We honor the contributions they make every day to strengthen their families and our Nation.”

I can attest to the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. My father grew up during the Great Depression and was not able to pursue a college education. In fact, he had to drop out of school at an early age so that he could work to help put food on the table during hard times. However, he was a strong father figure and a man of faith. He was also very good with his hands and could build or fix just about anything.

My father ingrained in me from an early age the importance of education. I did not always know it, but in time I learned that he was the smartest man I ever met. It is thanks to his influence that I am who I am today.

Most fathers have similarly high hopes for their children. According to the Pew Research Center, 93% say it is extremely or very important that their children be honest and ethical. Other highly rated characteristics include hardworking (87%) and willing to help others (78%). Today’s fathers spend nearly eight hours per week in childcare activities, compared with two and a half hours per week fifty years ago, yet 63% think other obligations keep them from spending as much time with their children as they’d like.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 72 million fathers in the United States, 29 million of them are also grandfathers. I don’t think anyone has yet counted all the additional men who dedicate their time serving as father figures, caring teachers, and mentors.

People define success in a variety of ways. For some it is educational attainment or career achievements. For others, it is family participation or serving as a role model. Whatever personal goals you hold, I hope you had the opportunity this Father’s Day to honor the men who helped shape you into your best self.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

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