Celebrate your fathers!

9 Jun

Father’s Day started as a purely American holiday, first suggested by Sonora Smart Dodd in 1909. As she sat in a Spokane, Washington church listening to a sermon on Mother’s Day, she thought to herself, “Why aren’t fathers recognized with their own special day?”

Two years after the first Mother’s Day observance in West Virginia, Dodd approached Spokane’s ministers, who embraced the idea along with members of the local YMCA. She suggested a date of June 5th, three weeks after Mother’s Day, as it was her father’s birthday. The ministers suggested a later date of June 19 in order to adequately prepare the appropriate sermons for their congregations.
While trying to promote a national observance of Mother’s Day, newspapers across the nation also carried the story of Dodd’s proposed holiday. Political leader and orator William Jennings Bryan, who also supported Mother’s Day, was quick to endorse Dodd’s efforts. However, the all-male Congress was hesitant to follow in his footsteps, believing that making the day official would seem too self-congratulatory. The idea of a day set aside to recognize fathers was also met with a measure of derision and jokes.
Slowly, the idea of a special day of recognition for fathers became more popular. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson took part in the observance, and in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended that states hold their own observances. In a letter to all the state governors, he noted that “the widespread observance of this occasion is calculated to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children, and also to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
However, the federal government was slow in making it a national holiday, even after SenatorMargaret Chase Smith wrote to Congress in 1957, recommending that if it did not recognize fathers as it did mothers, than neither parent should get their own special day. She did not mince words, writing “Either we honor both our parents, mother and father, or let us desist from honoring either one. But to single out just one of our two parents and omit the other is the most grievous insult imaginable.”

Finally, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day, a day to honor all fathers. In 1972, President Richard Nixon legally made it a permanent national holiday. It is now observed on the third Sunday in June in 55 countries around the world. Similar observations are held elsewhere on different days. Although celebrated in a variety of different ways, what Father’s Day means around the world is celebrating family and honoring the men who are a part of that.
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