Early Happy Father’s Day!
As you know, this special day isn’t just a chance to buy Dad some new cologne or a card. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what fathers mean to us. The things they’ve taught, the values they’ve instilled, the examples they’ve set.
It’s a chance to look in the mirror and ask ourselves just how we’re measuring up.
One of the greatest and most moving tributes I’ve ever read about fathers comes from none other than Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the 26th president of the United States. Even today, the popular image of Roosevelt is that of a rough-riding boxer, a Bull Moose. He was a man who, after being shot in the chest at a rally, decided to finish his speech anyway.
But as a boy, Roosevelt was “sickly and timid,” prone to asthma and bullying.
As Roosevelt would later describe it, the main reason for his transformation was his father, Theodore Sr.
My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfullness. As we grew older, he made us understand that the same standard of clean living was demanded of the boys as well as the girls; that what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. With great love and patience, and the most generous sympathy and consideration, he combined insistence on discipline. I never knew anyone who got greater joy out of living than did my father, or anyone who more whole-heartedly performed every duty.1
I was fortunate in having a father whom I have always been able to regard as the ideal man. It sounds a little like cant to say what I am going to say, but he did combine the strength and courage and will and energy of the strongest man with tenderness, cleanness, and purity. I was a sickly and timid boy. He not only took great and untiring care of me – some of my earliest remembrances are of nights when he would walk up and down with me for an hour at a time in his arms when I was a wretched mite suffering acutely with asthma – but he also most wisely refused to coddle me, and made me feel that I must force myself to hold my own with other boys and prepare to do the rough work of the world. I would have hated and dreaded beyond measure to have him know that I had been guilty of a lie, or of cruelty, or of bullying, or of uncleanness or cowardice.
Gradually, I grew up to have these feelings on my own account, not merely his.2
In some ways, I think that last line was the most profound of all. You see, most children lucky enough to have a good father grow up idolizing their dad. He’s a pillar of strength, a font of wisdom. He’s a hero and a wizard, a teacher and a coach. As they grow up, though, they start to see that nobody’s perfect, not even Dad – and it’s easy to focus more on avoiding his mistakes or perfecting his shortcomings than following his example.
But then, as they grow older still, they learn they’re not perfect, either. They realize the only reason they avoided Dad’s mistakes was because he taught them how. They realize that most of what they take pride in, most of what they value – it came from him.
That, to me, is what Father’s Day is all about. It’s about more than gifts and cards. It’s about more than simply saying “Thank you.”
It’s about saying, “I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.”
Whether out loud at a family gathering, or in the quiet of our own hearts, I hope we all take the time to pay tribute to our dads this upcoming Father’s Day. I wish to say, “Thank you” to all fathers reading this as wouldn’t be who we are without you!