“Families are the foundation” of human society, and parents become “the first image of love to our children, and the first image of God to our children,” Rev. Keith A. Savage said in 2015, when he and wife Bonita were honored as National Parents of the Year.
For 22 years, Americans have had an annual federal holiday to honor their fathers and mothers — Parents’ Day is officially the fourth Sunday of July.
Parents’ Day was enacted with bipartisan leadership and strong support in Congress — notably former Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican; Rep. Floyd H. Flake, New York Democrat and now senior pastor of a Queens, N.Y., megachurch; and former D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy.
In the upper chamber, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican; then-Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican; and then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Delaware Democrat, helped shepherd the bill, which was signed into law on Oct. 14, 1994, by President Bill Clinton.
“Parents play a crucial role in shaping our lives and the life of our nation,” Mr. Clinton said in 2000 in one of his proclamations in honor of Parents’ Day.
“We owe our parents — whether biological or adoptive, stepparents or foster parents — a profound debt of gratitude” for their sacrificial efforts, unconditional love and constant devotion, Mr. Clinton said.
“Being a parent is the most important job in the world,” President George W. Bush wrote in his 2001 proclamation. “As we hold a newborn in our arms or embrace an older adopted child, the promise we make in our hearts to love, protect and nurture our children stays with us and their them forever. We are eternally linked to the children whom we are blessed to parent and to the generations before us who helped shape our lives,” Mr. Bush said.
Over the years, hundreds of parents have been selected as state Parents of the Year, with some of them becoming National Parents of the Year.
Many honorees had raised both biological and adoptive and foster children, rebounded from unusual hardships, worked for racial justice or helped those with disabilities. Many organized projects for needy youths or to uphold the traditional family.
For instance, John and Cheryl Carnwath raised four children and also started an annual fair to connect parents with services and a camp for families. Nebraskans Rev. Don Coleman and his wife, Rev. Ann Coleman, raised five children and led organizations in Lincoln to mentor youth and their parents and stand against street violence. Both couples were so exemplary they were both named Parents of the Year 2000.
The 2004 National Parents of the Year were Joshua and L’Tanya Haire, who adopted a child and raised seven, but lost two other children in infancy. The couple went on to establish a literacy project in partnership with their North Carolina church and county public school system.
The holiday has often prompted people, from sponsors to couples, to testify to their own parents or offer advice about how to keep their family relations in good health.
“I come from parents who gave birth to 13 children; my parents had fifth- and sixth-grade education,” Mr. Flake said at a 1994 event on behalf of the Parents’ Day bills. “I can’t help by rejoice in having parents who understood that in spite of never having a psychology course … they nurtured us. They admonished us to take the word ‘can’t out of our vocabulary,” Mr. Flake said, according to a Washington Times news account of the event.
Two of the best pieces of advice for parents are to “eat together” and “talk with each other,” even if sometimes people end up talking “at each other,” said Rev. Savage, pastor of First Baptist Church of Manassas.
Parents’ Day sponsoring organizations today include National Parents’ Day Coalition, the Universal Peace Federation-USA, American Clergy Leadership Coalition, The Washington Times Foundation, Women’s Federation for World Peace-USA and Family Federation for World Peace. Judges for National Parents of the Year have included officials from the National Organization for Marriage, Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Georgia, Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation and Christian Voice.
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