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 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016.
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT