A hundred years ago Sonora Smart Dodd decided that fathers should have a day to honor them similar to the recently created Mother’s Day. To honor her father she sought the help of the local YMCA in Spokane, WA and the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19th, 1910.
At first derided as another frivolous holiday to be commercialized and have the effect of watering down an already overloaded calendar. Slowly, the idea caught on, gaining momentum as president Woodrow Wilson publicly approved of the holiday in 1916 and again in 1924 when Calvin Coolidge endorsed the holiday to foster “more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
Sixty-two years passed between that first celebration and official recognition when president Richard Nixon signed the holiday into law. This followed Lyndon Johnson’s 1966 proclamation officially honoring fathers on the third Sunday in June.
In 1974 Sonora Smart Dodd was honored at the world fair in Spokane. She had wanted her father’s birthday, June 5, to be the day to honor fathers but more time was needed to prepare for that first celebration, and so the nineteenth was selected.
Sonora Smart died in 1978, at age 96.
Today Father’s Day remains a day to honor our fathers and the other father figures in our lives, but I think that it is a great idea for fathers to take the time to reflect upon their role as a father and the responsibility that that entails. Too often we want to be honored but refuse to acknowledge the areas in which we have fallen short. I challenge all fathers to take a moment on your day to determine in which areas you can improve in the coming year to provide your children the security and love that only we can provide for our children.
I challenge all children, as they choose that card or gift to really consider the sacrifices and the hard work that your father has invested in you and your success and happiness, and to look beyond the times that he might have disappointed or fallen short and realize that he did the best he could with the tools and the knowledge that he had.
We all, as fathers, have moments that we would like to take back or do over, but in the end, given what God has blessed us with in our families and friends, would be loathe to change anything for fear that it might change everything. For all the mistakes that I have made, I ended up with the best family that I could have hoped for.
By the way, the most popular gift for Father’s Day is the necktie (surprise,surprise), and the second most popular is the rose, the official Father’s Day flower. In 1910 YMCA members attended church services wearing roses to honor their fathers; a red rose if their father was living and a white one if their father was deceased.
Unfortunately I would have to wear a white rose today. My father passed away twelve years ago, and each year that goes by I realize even more how much I draw on his wisdom and his inner strength and his drive to be the best in order to navigate my own life, and how much I wish that he were still here now that I realize how valuable and important the presence of a father is in our lives. Our fathers fulfill the roles of mentor, teacher, confidant, critic, and roadmap. They are who taught us what it means to be a man. That is so important to sons, who need a role model who shows them how to treat people and how to respond to situations, and to daughters, who rely on their fathers to show them how a man is to treat a woman.
It is such a great responsibility, to model for your children the person that you would have them emulate, but don’t worry. They learn from your mistakes too. As fathers, we have to ensure that we learn from our mistakes too. We also need to teach them how to admit to your mistakes and take responsibility for the consequences.
Happy Father’s Day, and may we use this day to honor the blessing that a father is to our lives and for us fathers to reflect on the honor and duty of fatherhood. God bless.