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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.

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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.

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