As I mention at the blog around this time every year, Father’s Day, which arrives this Sunday, was first officially proclaimed a national holiday by President Nixon in June 1972.
Here’s a moving column by David Whiting of the Orange County Register, who reminisces about his father Allen S. Whiting, a high-ranking Sino-Soviet expert (note to young readers: Soviets were what Russians used to be) in the State Department. The elder Whiting never did get around to playing catch with young David because he was at work on the nation’s business, which sometimes involved traveling to San Clemente to brief Dr. Henry Kissinger. This was all classified at the time, and David Whiting only recently learned much about it, and why his father couldn’t be home sometimes.
Another father who had trouble setting aside time for his older sons – in the case of one of them, because he was too busy leading the media charge against the thirty-seventh President during Watergate – is former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee. Here is an article by Jesse Yeatman at Southern Maryland Newspapers in which old Ben discusses his new book, A Life’s Work, which describes his efforts to make things up as a father with his youngest son (and co-author) Quinn. Their prime bonding activity has been using chainsaws to cut trees and brush.
Sometimes, Ben’s wife (and Quinn’s mother) Sally Quinn takes time out from informally advising the Obama Administration and joins them in the woods. According to the article, she has her own chainsaw – a pink one. If you’ve ever looked into Sally’s cerulean eyes, as I did not long ago, you might think twice before you laugh at that.
There’s still time for a present if you haven’t gotten one. My recommendations?
In The Arena by Richard Nixon
Wisdom Of Our Fathers and/or Big Russ And Me by Tim Russert – the man who, as I’ve explained before, didn’t invent Father’s Day at the desk you can see in DC’s Newseum, but sure helped teach America what it meant.
or A Life’s Work. As long as you throw in a chainsaw. (But not a pink one – that’s for Mother’s Day, of course. And the right book to go with that is Sally Quinn’s The Party: The Guide To Adventurous Entertaining.)
Photo and caption courtesy of Bettman/Corbis: Benjamin Bradlee as a young reporter in Paris, France, 1956. The French government briefly tried to expel Bradlee for his reporting on the Algeria crisis. Bradlee had attempted to interview leaders of the rebellion against French colonial rule in Algeria.