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Honoring U.S. Presidents Who Honored Their Fathers

On a number of occasions President Obama has lamented about growing up without a great dad in his life. Conversely, many U.S. presidents over the years have given a great deal of honor to their fathers. How important were these men in their sons’ lives? And what’s the connection between President’s Day every third Monday of February and Father’s Day every third Sunday of June?

President Calvin Coolidge

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge publicly supported plans for a national Father’s Day. Coolidge said of his father after his death: “He was a man of untiring industry and great tenacity of purpose… He always stuck to the truth. I cannot recall that I ever knew of his doing a wrong thing. He would be classed as decidedly a man of character.”

Coolidge wrote most about his father in his autobiography. He was in awe of his dad. His dad was generous, charitable, and regarded waste as a moral wrong. He wanted “to grow up to be like him.”

In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Father’s Day to be an official national holiday. His father was known as “A man who loved his fellow man.” Lyndon, in his childhood, wanted nothing more than to be like his dad, to try to replicate him in every way. It is said that at his core, Lyndon never ceased loving his dad. He admired what he stood for.

It wasn’t until 1972, though, that President Richard Nixon signed into law a permanent U.S. Father’s Day to be observed on the third Sunday of June. One biographer called Nixon’s dad “the most influential teacher in Richard’s life.” His dad was “the driving force” in their family. Nixon wrote, “There was never a day I was not proud of him (my dad).”

Today, do Americans believe a strong dad in the home is necessary? We can take small doses of elderly dads portrayed on TV—say, Martin Crane of Frasier and Arthur Spooner of The King of Queens. Most likely, none of these dads are like the dad we grew up with. They seem funny and easy to put up with in their son or daughter’s home. In each case, the dad isn’t caring for his child. His adult child is caring for him.

Other popular TV dads over the past quarter century have mixed humor with ineptness, most notably Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement, and The Cosby Show. It seems easier to laugh at a man who’s trying hard to be a dad than to actually have a father in the home.

In the heart of each child is a longing for his or her dad to be someone special. Sadly, that longing is often unfulfilled. Still, given the choice between an absent dad and a dad in the home that can be overbearing, unreasonable, and even controlling, many children would choose the latter.

Today many kids grow up without a dad. They don’t know him well enough to admire him. In some instances, they have never met their biological dad.

This President’s Day, let’s not forget to honor the fathers of the next generation of great leaders.

Note: In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day, the White House sent a special letter of commendation to D. J. Young, full-time researcher, writer, and speaker on issues pertaining to fatherhood,

D. J. Young grew up in Aberdeen, South Dakota. After serving in the U.S. Navy, and attending seminary, he received a B.A. in Sociology from Carroll College in Helena, Montana, and did graduate studies in Special Education. After a season of pastoring, D.J. was a Christian school teacher and principal for over twenty years. A board member of Oregon Christian Writers, he also has directed three of their recent Summer Coaching Conferences. D. J. is a full-time writer and conference speaker with a passion for encouraging men in their God-given role as “Dad”. He and his wife Kathy have been married 40 years, and are the proud parents of five adult children and grandparents of six. You can contact him by e-mail at:

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