Polls confirm that America is deeply divided on many levels – politically, theologically, sociologically, culturally and economically, to name just a few areas of current disagreement.
But whether Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, there should be universal consensus that our country will only be as strong as its fathers – men who step up to not only love but lead the next generation.
So, on this Father’s Day weekend, how are dads and their kids doing?
According to the Institute for Family Studies, too many are under extreme stress and strain.
To begin, forty percent of births in the United States are to unmarried women; twenty-three percent of children are living with single moms – and three-million kids are residing with unmarried parents.
Yet, even jarring statistics tend to sanitize, especially when you know there are names behind all the numbers. There are millions of people in the percentages – individuals from our own families or maybe even readers of this article. Sometimes the pain is private and quiet – other times it’s very public and loud.
The late Umberto Eco, an Italian philosopher, once observed, “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
My own father, who was the wisest man I’ve ever known, seemed cut from Central Casting. Brooklyn born and raised in a poor family in the midst of the Great Depression, my dad began working at the age of six making deliveries for a neighborhood drug store. He also worked in a candy store, delivered newspapers and eventually became an errand boy for a company based out of Rockefeller Center.
Drafted during the Korean War, my dad served stateside, was married upon his discharge and then went to college at night for almost ten years on the G.I. Bill. He climbed the corporate ladder with Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, but always made sure his family remained a top priority.
Those “scraps of wisdom” were everywhere – displayed in how his good manners honored our mother, in how he always kept his promises by coaching our teams or serving with our Boy Scout troops on camping trips.
But I especially remember one night when a neighbor knocked on our door during dinner, appealing to my dad to sign a petition objecting to the proposed sale of a house on the block to an African American family. I overheard parts of the conversation in which my father made clear in no uncertain terms he would never sign such a document.
In the words of Eco, it was an “odd” and unscripted moment. Yet, well over forty years later, I’ve never forgotten it.
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society,” noted the late Dr. Billy Graham.
Good fathers lay a firm foundation for the next generation. They realize their role is to work themselves out of a job. It’s never about them – it’s about those entrusted to their care.
Robust debates about important public policy issues rage red hot from state houses to both houses of Congress and to the White House – but if strong, sacrificial and loving fathers don’t tend to their families in their own houses of America, even the wisest legislation will ultimately prove ineffective and irrelevant.
Good fathers are not fantastical creatures – they’re built from boys who’ve had strong men show them the way.
On this Father’s Day weekend, let’s join with one voice in saluting the many dads who hold the keys to our country’s health and stability.