Honoring fathers all year

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Now that we’ve celebrated Father’s Day, the gifts are put away and the backyard cookout or special dinner is just a memory, let’s pause for a moment and commit to keeping that Father’s Day spirit alive all year round.

As a father and grandfather, I enjoy my special day, but I’m worried that the spirit of honoring fatherhood is dimming. We take one day a year to recognize and celebrate the important role a father plays in the lives of his children, but it takes a full time commitment to ensure that we, as a nation, are encouraging all fathers to be involved with their families.

Unfortunately, Father’s Day serves as a distressing reminder of how short we fall as a society in ensuring our children have the important influence of a father figure in their lives. There are too many fathers absent; too many children with no one to call, hug, or spoil for a day.

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But, that’s not even the worst of it. Fatherlessness is often addressed with a shrug. Far too many people seem to accept the epidemic absence of fathers. The role of a mother is an absolute necessity, but too often the role of the father is considered optional. Fathers are a necessity too, and they should be treated as such – because, the absence of a father in the life of a child has troubling consequences.

This sad state of affairs was highlighted last week on the social network Twitter. Someone started the hashtag #EndFathersDay, most likely as a prank. What started as a hoax, however, was joined by far too many strident voices that really do want to end the recognition of fathers.

Fathers play such a crucial role in our children’s lives that they can’t be cast aside. It’s just as disconcerting to see a few thoughtless dividers suggest that fathers offer no value as it is to see a father voluntarily abandon a family.

We excuse the lack of fathers in our children’s lives far too easily. We need to have a continuing discussion in America addressing the reasons for the epidemic, and coming up with solutions on how to raise good fathers for our children.

That’s why I started a not-for-profit called Raising Fathers. I aim to help start that national dialogue, and if my own personal story helps others understand just how important an issue this is, then that’s all the better.

You see, my father struggled with personal demons and couldn’t always be there when I needed him. My mother is a strong woman who did a wonderful job raising my siblings and me, but I needed a father figure. When I had my own kids, I initially stumbled without a positive male example from my own life to pull from.

It was only through surrogate teachers, mentors serving with me in the military and friends that I found my own way as a child, Air Force officer, and father in my own right.

The absence of a father happens for many reasons and the tragic circumstances surrounding that void often can’t be avoided. What can be avoided is the voluntary exclusion of a father from a child’s life. That’s what Raising Fathers is all about.

In the days leading up to Father’s Day, we encouraged people to go to the web site RaisingFathers.org and post a tribute about fatherhood. We heard from all kinds of people in and out of Ohio. We even posted a fatherhood tribute made by the Navy SEAL hero Marcus Luttrell, whose courageous actions in Afghanistan led to the best-selling book and blockbuster movie “Lone Survivor.”

My day job is being a member of Congress. But my 24-hour-a-day job is being a good father and grandfather and supporting others to be good parents, too. The Raising Fathers project is about acknowledging the problem and seeking solutions.

It’s about supporting education for fathers, mothers and children to ensure that each can play their important role. It’s about ensuring that a father is available to coach Little League, to teach how to drive, or just to provide a strong shoulder to cry on.

The epidemic absence of fathers won’t end tomorrow, but it won’t ever end unless we acknowledge the problem and invest in finding solutions.

In fact, instead of ending Father’s Day, as some on Twitter suggested, I recommend we keep the Father’s Day observance going year-round. It’ll bring attention and focus to our epidemic absence of fathers. It’ll force people to ask questions and seek solutions.

And raising up dads every day isn’t too bad an idea, either.


Congressman Bill Johnson represents Ohio’s Sixth District.