In Praise of Fathers

Jeff Minick
By Jeff Minick
June 16, 2024Life
In Praise of Fathers
Fathers have a unique influence on their children when it comes to instilling wisdom, grit, and the right way of living. (Biba Kayewich)

The official celebration of Father’s Day in the United States is relatively new. Only in 1966 did President Lyndon Johnson issue a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in June as a special day for honoring dads. In 1972, President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day an official national holiday.

This special day is our reminder to reflect on fatherhood. Daughters and sons who love and appreciate their fathers make this particular Sunday a party, gifting Dad with presents and cards, backyard barbecues, or visits to a restaurant. Children young and old who have lost beloved fathers to death bless them in their memories. On this day, many of those whose fathers deserted or mistreated them remind themselves to be better people and better parents.

Of course, remembering and appreciating the gifts bestowed by fathers is nothing new. History provides a cornucopia of fathers who won the affections of their offspring, who not only provided them with material necessities but who also instilled in them virtues and habits that carried them through a lifetime of joys and sorrows.

Let’s meet some of these children and hear what they have to say about their fathers.


In his adopted stepfather, Antoninus Pius, the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (121–180 A.D.) found “the most beautiful model of a perfect life.” Most of what we know today of Antoninus comes from the “Meditations,” that handbook of stoicism in which Aurelius again and again praises his stepfather for inculcating in him virtue, wisdom, and the right way of living.

Contrary to the practices of his day, Sir Thomas More (1478–1535) played with his children and gave them all—three daughters and a son—an excellent education. After Henry VIII had More beheaded for refusing to recognize the king as head of the Church of England, the corpse was turned over to the family, but More’s head was mounted on London Bridge. His adoring daughter Margaret procured the head by stealth, confessed when apprehended that she had done so from love of her father, and was freed. She had her father’s head preserved and was later buried with it in her coffin. Gruesome, yes, but surely demonstrative of a daughter’s affections.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was a student at Harvard when his father died. In his 1913 “Autobiography,” the future president wrote: “My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. … I never knew anyone who got greater joy out of living than did my father, or anyone who more wholeheartedly performed every duty.”

Sonora Smart Dodd (1882–1978) honored her father in a very special way. The oldest of six children, Sonora was 16 when her mother died. Over the next decade, she witnessed her father, William Smart, take “the role of father-mother in the rearing of his six children. This role he performed with courage and selflessness until we were all in homes of our own.” Consequently, Dodd spent the rest of her life advocating for a nationally recognized Father’s Day. She lived to see President Nixon make that dream an official reality. “My own father never accepted Father’s Day as personal to himself,” she said in 1965. “But to all fathers—worthy fathers.”

Today, Dodd is known as “The Mother of Father’s Day.”

Today’s Testimonials

More ingredients might easily be added to this classic stew of homage and reminiscence, but I decided to flavor it instead with some contemporary spices. Along with an explanation, I emailed two questions to about 15 friends and two family members: “What values and character traits do I most admire in my father? Or if you wish, what makes him a good dad?”

Here are some of their responses.

Jenny: “I appreciate that Dad taught us to be hardworking and to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Also, I have fond memories (between about 3rd and 9th grade) of occasionally waking up late at night and going to Dad’s art studio in our house. I would watch him paint, ask about what or who he was painting, or we would talk about other things. He never told me I had to go back to bed. I’m sure I wasn’t up that long before returning to bed, but those are special memories.”

Anne: “My dad was calm. I guess the character trait was even-tempered, but there was no rigidity in it. I think he must have had a deep prayer life, though he never talked about that. He sang around the house, but not for show. He wasn’t a showman. He smiled and laughed, he read a lot. Most importantly to me, he seemed to enjoy my company. That was the biggest lesson. He taught me that I was valuable. He taught by example—he never lectured or preached. He enjoyed life. Certainly, he didn’t always, but he was not dependent on drama, so we rarely knew when he was upset. I rarely saw him angry. I remember a time or two when he would silently put on his hat, the kind of hat that men wore in the ’50s, and walk out the door. The atmosphere was chilled; I knew he was angry, but he was taking care of it.”

Arnie: “In 1967, my dad was instrumental in starting Little League Football in Davie County, North Carolina. It’s still active today. He was very intentional about spending time with all six of his kids, including coaching us in football, baseball, and basketball.”

Annie: “What I really appreciate about my dad is his patience and kindness. He was never a father to whom it would be terrifying to go to and confess when I did something wrong. He always took things in stride, showing love and forgiveness. In doing so, he gave me a better picture of what God is like—a loving Heavenly Father who is always wanting me to come to Him for forgiveness, waiting with open arms of love, acceptance, and restoration when I confess my sins, rather than one just waiting to explode at me in anger.”

John: “He saw the good in you, no matter what. He was always hopeful in a quiet way for his children.”

John Henry (age 7): “I would like to be a good dad and a holy man. And a fun and loving dad like my dad.”

In all these daughters and sons, past and present, we find a spectrum of attributes they valued in their fathers: wisdom, high moral standards, hard work, courage, self-control, and patience. If we distill these virtues and deeds into a single sentiment, we find those three words that all children want to hear from their fathers: “I love you.”

By our own words and deeds, Father’s Day is our opportunity to return that great gift, to say “I love you” to these men who made such a tremendous difference in our lives.

From The Epoch Times