Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

A day for the real fathers

By Donna Brazile
updated 12:18 PM EDT, Sun June 15, 2014
President Obama has been a father and role model for his two girls, Sasha and Malia.
President Obama has been a father and role model for his two girls, Sasha and Malia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile salutes her father and all the real fathers who were there for their kids
  • Father's Day was afterthought, but now first in her mind as she remembers her dad
  • Lionel Brazile, a veteran, passed away two years ago, but his legacy lives on

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Father's Day holds a unique place in America's culture.

It was a bit of an afterthought, originating in 1910 -- some 40 years after Mother's Day -- after a woman in Spokane, Washington, campaigned that dads needed to be honored, too,

She was right. We couldn't possibly ignore Dad. We love him, too. He deserves more than second billing.

Still, we all know Mother gets the most attention. She gets the perfume, she gets the flowers, she gets the candy, the new dress, the heart-felt cards and even breakfast in bed, (maybe). It's Dad who takes the kids and goes searching with them for Mother's Day presents.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

But Dad? Well, he gets a tie. Every year.

Or maybe some T-shirts, golf balls, cologne, or a lounging shirt. A few joke greeting cards. Mom reminds the kids, and hands them a little money to shop with, saying, "Get him something he'll enjoy." Yeah, it will be a tie.

Or, if he's lucky, his young ones may do a handmade gift. That ceramic cup that leans just slightly to the left. You know the one.

Our public portrayal of fathers has shifted during my life. TV fathers have "evolved' from real people like Sheriff Andy Taylor, Beaver's dad Ward Cleaver and Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, to cartoon dads like Homer Simpson, and Seth MacFarlane's caricatures in "American Dad!" and "Family Guy." None of the latter are exactly the firm, wise, wisdom-dispensing fathers of the "back-in-the-day" TV dads.

But my dad was the real deal. He was a veteran. And he never allowed his nine kids to forget.

Men taking their health to heart
A salute to Dad
Kids: What makes my dad great

Today's fathers are having a rough go being kindly portrayed in the media. Thank God, we do we have President Barack Obama for a national model. He both dotes on and takes a firm loving hand to our first-family daughters.

And every once in a while, he gets to parent a "son." I recall his having a sort of father-son talk with a crying boy who'd lost an egg at the White House Easter Egg roll, telling him -- like a father -- to "shake it off."

I also recall the President saying on TV, with Michelle sitting right beside him, (foolish man) that he put more thought into his gifts, than he got back -- producing a very frosty look from the first lady. But, it was probably true. It was in my family.

There are, of course, instances of bad fathers, men who weren't up to the job. Those who abandoned their kids, or were often drunk. Those who were present with necessities, yet absent from their children's lives. God bless them for missing out on the most rewarding parts of being a male, and God bless their kids for surviving and maturing in spite of this. President Obama knows about this -- he was raised largely without his father -- as does Bill Clinton, whose father died three months before the 42nd president was born.

It's true you never know the full depth of a parent's touch in your life until they're gone. Even if you cared for them in their old age, there's never a way to prepare yourself for the death of a parent. If you're a girl, you're always Daddy's little girl. You're vulnerable, no matter how worldly, or sophisticated, or strong you'd become along the way. My dad, Lionel, let me know how proud he was, even as he kept me from being too big for my britches.

My father would have celebrated his 83rd birthday this weekend. It's been two years since his death, but I think of him every day. Lionel loved sports, he enjoyed cooking and loved his family. And most of all, he devoted most of his life to trying to help others.

On this Father's Day, I think of my Dad, my grandfathers, uncles and my two brothers who are good dads to their kids. I also think of all the fathers whose sons were taken in service to this nation. Lionel would approve of that.

I think of the fathers of the boys and girls killed in Sandy Hook, and 74 school shootings since then. I think of all the fathers who've lost daughters and sons to illnesses, or accidents -- far too often a father's only child.

I also think of the fathers whose sons turned mass murderers, despite every effort to parent a son who'd make a good citizen. There can't be a worse hell on earth than that.

Then, I turn my prayers and attention back to the fathers still parenting. I think and pray for the fathers across the nation who are raising America's next generation, and of those still advising the current, grown up, generations. There's no more important job in the world than raising a child, even when you're the President.

There's no more important job than being a father. Happy Father's Day to all the dads, granddads and soon-to-be-fathers.

Happy Father's Day.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:15 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT