The first formal “Father’s Day” was celebrated June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington.
Sonora Louise Smart Dodd heard a church sermon on the newly established Mother’s Day and wanted to honor her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, who had raised six children by himself after his wife died in childbirth. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd drew up a petition supported by the Young Men’s Christian Association and the ministers of Spokane to celebrate Fathers’ Day.
In 1916, Woodrow Wilson spoke at a Spokane Fathers’ Day service.
President Nixon, in 1972, established Father’s Day as a permanent national observance.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, 1904, in his fourth annual message to Congress, President Theodore Roosevelt stated: “No Christian and civilized community can afford to show a happy-go-lucky lack of concern for the youth of to-day; for, if so, the community will have to pay a terrible penalty of financial burden and social degradation in the to-morrow. … The prime duty of the man is to work, to be the breadwinner; the prime duty of the woman is to be the mother, the housewife. All questions of tariff and finance sink into utter insignificance when compared with the tremendous, the vital importance of trying to shape conditions so that these two duties of the man and of the woman can be fulfilled under reasonably favorable circumstances.”
On May 20, 1981, in a Proclamation of Father’s Day, President Ronald Reagan stated: “‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,’ Solomon tells us. Clearly, the future is in the care of our parents. Such is the responsibility, promise, and hope of fatherhood. Such is the gift that our fathers give us.”
On Father’s Day, 1988, Ronald Reagan said: “Children, vulnerable and dependent, desperately need security, and it has ever been a duty and a joy of fatherhood to offer it. Being a father requires strength … and more than a little courage … to persevere, to fight discouragement, and to keep working for the family.”
President Reagan ended: “Let us … express our thanks and affection to our fathers, whether we can do so in person or in prayer.”
Williams Jennings Bryan gave over 600 public speeches during his presidential campaigns, with his most famous being “The Prince of Peace,” which was printed in The New York Times, Sept. 7, 1913: “Christ promoted peace by giving us assurance that a line of communication can be established between the Father above and the child below.”
Plato warned in his work Republic, 380 B.C., that when the younger generation disrespect their fathers: “Can liberty have any limit? Certainly not. … By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses. … The son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this is his freedom. … Citizens … chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority … they will have no one over them. … Liberty overmasters democracy. … The excess of liberty, whether in states or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery. … And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty.”
Plato added: “By heaven … the parent will discover what a monster he has been fostering in his bosom; and, when he wants to drive him out, he will find that he is weak and his son strong. Why, you do not mean to say that the tyrant will use violence? What! beat his father if he opposes him? Yes, he will, having first disarmed him … Then he is a parricide, and a cruel guardian of an aged parent; and this is real tyranny.”
U.S. Senate Peter Marshall commented on social deconstruction (20 Centuries of Great Preaching Vol. 12 Waco: Word, 1971 p. 11-19): “The history of the world has always been the biography of her great men. … There was a time in these United States when youth was inspired by (heroes) … when a picture of Washington or Lincoln adorned every school room wall. … Along with the ponderous Family Bible on the Victorian table and the hymn books on the old-fashioned square piano, there looked down from the walls the likenesses of our national heroes. … Those were the days of great beliefs – belief in the authority of the Scriptures, belief that prayer was really answered, belief in marriage and the family as permanent institutions, belief in the integrity and worth of America’s great men. These beliefs laid the groundwork for producing more great men, for many a boy figured, “If that man could do it, get an education, make his life count for something, then I can too. …'”
Marshall continued: “Then there dawned the day when the pictures of Washington and Lincoln did not fit in with our concept of modern décor. … The old Family Bible looked embarrassingly out of place. … So the pictures and the Bible were often relegated to the Attic of Forgotten Things. There went with them some of the most stabilizing influences of American life. We had become a more sophisticated people, somewhat cynical of the cherished beliefs of our ancestors, rather blasé, frankly skeptical of old-fashioned sentimentalism. Along with our higher education came a debunking contest. This debunking became a sort of national sport. … It was smarter to revile than to revere … more fashionable to depreciate than to appreciate. In our classrooms at all levels of education, no longer did we laud great men – those who had struggled and achieved. Instead, we merely took their dimensions and ferreted out their faults. We decided that it was silly to say God sent them for a special task … They were merely … products of their environments. … The Constitution, that hitherto cherished charter of American liberties, was drawn up by men who never spoke on a telephone or flew in a plan, therefore, we should change the Constitution to suit modern ways. …”
Marshall added: “But we failed to realize that when we were denying the existence of great men, we were also denying the desirability of great men. So now, many of our children have grown up without the guiding star … holding in their hands only a bunch of … question marks, with no keys with which to open the doors of knowledge and life. The young no longer had any particular ambition to become heroes. Their ambition now was to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, in whatever way was most convenient. … Thus, our debunking is … a sign of decaying foundations of character to the individual and in the national life. … We who are Christians, believe that God gives the world a few great men to lead the rest of us closer to Him, that to depreciate or to deny their greatness is to deny one of God’s revelations of Himself to mankind. The heroes the Christian cherishes … were (or are) human. … They have their weakness. … Their faults are well-known to their friends, better known to themselves. But the point is that with God and His guidance, they can provide the moral leadership that our nation so sorely needs. America needs heroes on the battlefield of everyday life … in our homes, in our schools, on college campuses, in offices and factories, who can lead us towards a return to idealism. For time is running out for us. …”
U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall concluded: “The call today is for Christian heroes and heroines … who are willing to speak a good word for Jesus Christ … who are willing to live by the undiluted values of Christian morality in the pagan atmosphere of our society surrounded by lewdness, pornography, and profanity. This may be a higher bravery than that of any battlefield: to face ridicule, sarcasm, sneering disdain for what one believes to be right. To fight for goodness and right … fighting the battle first in our own hearts and souls … seeking God’s help to overcome our particular temptations for the sake of peace .. for the sake of America … for our own sake … for God’s sake.”
In his Father’s Day address in 1988, Ronald Reagan stated: “With God’s grace, fathers find the patience to teach, the fortitude to provide, the compassion to comfort, and the mercy to forgive. All of this is to say that they find the strength to love their wives and children selflessly.”
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