Happy Father's Day REAL Dads,
"Sometimes we look back when our children remind us who we once were." I say that as I think about my mom.
Odd I'd think of mom right before Father's Day, but in many black families, mothers ran the families, particularly if she was a strong one like my mom. Half-Cherokee, mom was a force to be reckoned with. I remember her telling me, with frustration, something I would not understand until later, "I hope you have a child just like you." As parents, no matter what we do, we must remain vigilant to the idea the best we can do is the best we can do. Eventually, by doing the right thing, we hope our children will understand and respect us. That's all we can ask. They may not love us, but many times the best movies are not the best because we like the people in them. The best movies are good because they are good!
Several years ago I saw Dr. Dixon helping the helpless in Mississippi. According to Anne Thompson, NBC correspondent, Persharon Dixon, a black pediatrician gave up her dream job to take care of kids along the Mississippi coast who had little or no access to healthcare, as their lives remain uprooted by Katrina. According to the story, Dr. Dixon gave up a big salary, a 3000 square feet home and moved her husband and three kids to a trailer in the Gulfport-Biloxi area to work for The Children's Health Fund. Dr. Dixon is still there. It's a wonderful prime news story, but what many failed to see in all this 'explaining' was her husband's contribution or the fact he was ignored. Ignored? Yes.
On the news, he was not asked one question as if he was insignificant. That made me angry, and it should make some of you angry. It's as if Dr. Dixon did it all herself. Even on the NBC webpage, his name was not mentioned, or how long they had been married. I wrote NBC about it, but they just sent me an auto-reply. That also angered me, and I feel if men don't stand up and demand to be acknowledged, we won't. We will continue to be viewed as insignificant, insincere, ignorant and insufferable.
Women do a lot, but so do men. As Billy Graham once said, "God gave us two hands, one to give and one to receive". There are thousands of men who are significant, sincere, smart, yet suffer the indignities society doesn't want to remove from our mantle of past mistakes. And sometimes it's the women in our lives who speak for us. They remind us of our contribution.
Father's Day in America is not even a hundred years old and if you research it, it came about because of a woman; specifically, because of the work of Ms. Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington. Listening to a sermon in 1909 celebrating Mother's Day she found herself wanting to honor her dad, since her mother had died in childbirth. Ms. Dodd was 16 at the time and her father raised the new baby and five other children. The city of Spokane supported her efforts and the first Father's Day celebration was a year later, June 19, 1910.
Then the men got involved. In 1916, President Wilson approved of the idea. In 1924 Calvin Coolidge stated he felt Father's Day would "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligation." In 1957, Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote Congress that "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."
It's unbelievable the fight, but perseverance resulted with President Lyndon Johnson signing a presidential proclamation in 1966, declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon established the third Sunday of June as a permanent national observance for Father's Day.
Sonora Smart Dodd died in 1978 at age 96. This Father's Day, take a moment to thank her. Take a moment to thank your dad, and as men, take a moment to thank all men for the struggles we've endured to stay in the lives our children as well as encourage others to stay in the lives of theirs.
Mothers can't do it alone. Dads can't either. Happy Father's Day, as this day should give us pause to revisit what we gained from our dads and what we can do for dads, but for our children too as Dads who care!
"Mine is to empower; not enable."
Archie R. Wortham, PhD
Professor of Speech