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Clif Cleaveland, MD
8 May 2008
Despite the commercialization, Mother's Day provides a time for
the nation to pay tribute to its mothers. Visits, flowers, special
meals, and notes of appreciation will be the order of the day. I
respectfully suggest the addition of another dimension to this
special day. Mother's Day in May, and Father's Day in June, should
become an occasion for parents to re-dedicate themselves to the
sacred tasks of raising children.
During the past few years, I have had the privilege to discuss
heroism in classrooms with students ranging from third to twelfth
grades. Often, we share a writing exercise in which each student
composes a brief passage about a hero. For the majority of students
of all ages, the hero that is singled out is a father, mother, or
grandparent. Many times that parent or grandparent is the sole
guardian for the child. Sometimes alcohol, drugs, or prison have
taken one or both parents. Sometimes a parent has simply walked
away from the family. Stories of abuse of a father toward his wife
or his children are not rare.
I have read of parents and grandparents, singly or as a team,
overcoming staggering odds of poverty, disease, and rotten luck to
provide a secure and loving environment for children. "She is
always there for me," is a repeated refrain. I have read of parents
whose homes have been foreclosed and whose furniture has been
repossessed. I have read of parents who must battle cancer and
sky-high drug bills while working to buy food and clothes for their
Certain traits dominate the students' writings about their
parent or grandparent. Optimism, selflessness, devotion,
predictability, and advocacy for the child's welfare are repeatedly
commemorated. The purpose of an annually renewed pledge on Mother's
and Father's Day would be its focus upon the responsibilities of
parents to uphold these virtues.
The American idea for Mother's Day began during the Civil War
with the work on Ann Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia. She urged
mothers of that especially conflicted region to declare their
neutrality and to devote their efforts to the care of casualties
from both Union and Confederate sides. After the war, she promoted
an annual Mothers Friendship Day at her church to unite citizens of
all political beliefs.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, who had written the words for the
Battle Hymn of the Republic during a visit to a Union encampment
during the Civil War, issued a Mother's Proclamation, calling for a
united effort by mothers to seek universal disarmament and peaceful
resolution to political quarrels. The proclamation furthered the
idea of recognition of mothers, especially those who had lost sons
Following the death of Ann Jarvis in 1905, her daughter, Anna,
pursued the vision of a national celebration of motherhood. The
first formal Mother's Day was held in the Methodist Church of
Grafton in 1910. Many states subsequently staged similar
recognitions. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a
proclamation passed by Congress to establish the second Sunday of
May as "a public expression of our love and reverence for the
mothers of our country." The day was meant to honor especially
mothers who had lost sons in war.
At a time when we daily read of disintegration of families and
of loss of adults and children to violence and substance abuse,
Mother's Day and Father's Day offer special opportunities for
parental commitment to provide loving and safe havens for their
I offer this pledge for parents:
With God's help always, I pledge my best efforts to give my
child unconditional love, encouragement, and devotion to their
enduring welfare. I will fulfill my responsibility to be an
optimistic and responsible role model.
What would your pledge be?
Contact Clif Cleaveland at email@example.com.