The 72nd annual Father of the Year awards were presented this past Tuesday (June 11) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City by the National Father’s Day Committee, an entity of the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council. Former President Bill Clinton was one of the recipients.
I first read about Clinton’s selection as “father of the year” back in January, and I was somewhat surprised to hear of his selection. Perhaps some of you, though, tend to agree with the two senior fellows of the Family Research Council, an organization founded by James Dobson in 1981, who wrote that Clinton was “unbelievably” chosen and that it was a “misdirected award.”
Actually, Clinton is just one of this year’s recipients, and some of you Republicans may be glad to know that Dan Quayle was one of the recipients in 1989 and Ronald Reagan was an awardee in 1957.
More than politicians, though, through the years there seems to have been a disproportionate number of sports celebrities chosen—such as Shaq O’Neal, the basketball superstar, last year.
Certainly Clinton’s personal indiscretions before, during, and after (?) his years in the White House are certainly not what one would expect from someone named “father of the year.” There is no way of knowing how those indiscretions negatively impacted the life of Chelsea, now 33, Bill and Hillary’s only child.
But Chelsea made a surprise appearance at Tuesday’s event and presented the award to her father. “Every day he’s my dad, and I don’t need an award to tell me he’s the best that I could have hoped for,” she said. “But I’m grateful he’s getting the recognition that I, of course, his unapologetically biased daughter, think he’s always deserved.”
And Clinton said he received a text message from Hillary saying, “Congratulations. I think you deserve this.”
Back in January when the Council announced Clinton’s selection, they highlighted Clinton's philanthropy through the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative—as well as his work as the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti. Exemplary fathers, they seem to imply, do more than care for just their own children.
What Clinton has done since he left the White House is considerably more praiseworthy than what we have seen from the most recent ex-president, who has been more of an exemplary father along traditional lines of thought. (Does he really spend time painting his feet in the bathtub?!)
According to the website of the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council, “The objective of this 72 year-old program [to present the Father of the Year awards] is to enhance the meaning of Father’s Day—Sunday, June 16, 2013—and encourage universal observance.”
Some of us have only memories of our fathers, as they have passed on. (My father, whom I remember with great respect and appreciation, died nearly six years ago.) Most of you will be able to honor your father directly tomorrow, in person or by telephone.
And those of us who are fathers can use this time to reflect on how we can be better fathers—for our own children and for the children of the world. Perhaps “father of the year” Bill Clinton is an example for us to emulate because of not just what he has done for Chelsea but primarily what he has done for so many children (and adults) through the Clinton Foundation and the activities of the Clinton Global Initiative.