The value of grandparents and National Grandparents Day

Americans often take loved ones for granted; yet, a genuine sense of grandparents' value could make a significant difference in America.  Photo: Greek artist Georgios Iakovidis's "The First Steps"

SAN JOSE, September 8, 2013 –  Grandparents Day, as a national holiday in the United States, is often overshadowed by the excitement and energy surrounding the start of college and professional football season and in years past, the bustle surrounding kids going back to a new school year after Labor Day.  This year Grandparents Day falls on the same day that the NFL season officially kicks off.  With that understanding, celebrations of Grandparents Day in some households assumes a secondary role in the family activities. And for those left out of the loop, yes there really is a National Grandparents Day!

Sadly for most Americans, National Grandparents Day is not on the list of primary holidays to remember like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Many American citizens may not even realize Grandparents Day even exists. Some might be suspicious that the federal government snuck it into law only recently and that may be why people don’t readily remember it. Americans who are only  more recently acquainted with Grandparents Day could trek down that trail of logic thinking that  since Obama was raised from the age of ten by his maternal grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham. Of course, Obama must be the one responsible for the creation of such a holiday via some sort of presidential decree or Executive Order.

In reality, that trail of logic would not yield the truth of how Grandparents Day came to    be, but one would not have to go back too far in time to find how this holiday actually originated. In reality, on August 3, 1978, President Jimmy Carter made a presidential proclamation creating a National Grandparents Day to be held on September 10th of that same year. The following year, he signed a second proclamation reflecting the legislation that had been passed by the U.S. Congress (joint resolution designated H.J. 244) that had designated the Sunday after Labor Day of each year as a National Grandparents Day.

Ironically, in 1979 (as in 2013) people in the United States became increasingly concerned about   the turbulence in the Middle East.  At the time, President Jimmy Carter faced trouble in Iran with a radical Muslim cleric by the name of Khomeini who had orchestrated an Islamic revolution that had toppled the existing government of Iran. Today, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about President Obama’s determination to destabilize the Syrian government of Syria. Definitely, it is a curious irony.

Despite the unfolding Iranian scenario in 1979, the Congress and the president ushered in a day to honor the nation’s grandparents. Unfortunately, that effort may have been lost amidst the profound tension that erupted between the United States and Iran as the militant Muslim extremists gained absolute control of Iran. In 2013, beyond concerns over their favorite football teams, many American households may be additionally concerned about the increasing international tensions surrounding turbulence in Syria and the entire Middle East.

Grandparents Day seems to be diminished in importance no matter what; however, for those who manage to honor their grandparents on this day, it is incredibly significant to maintain a perspective of the value of one’s grandparents. The original Carter proclamation authorizing a National Grandparents Day called attention to the fact that “…as a nation learns and is strengthened by its history, so a family learns and is strengthened by its understanding of preceding generations. As Americans live longer, more and more families are enriched by their shared experiences with grandparents and great-grandparents.”

The recognized founder of National Grandparents Day, Marion McQuade of West Virginia, made it a goal to educate the youth in the communities where she worked, and to teach grandchildren to recognize the wisdom and heritage they could receive from their grandparents, and to value of the important contributions senior citizens have made throughout history. Sadly, many of the younger generation do not even know of the existence of a holiday to honor grandparents. Yet, it may become an increasingly important holiday as the generation of “Baby Boomers” become grandparents.

Jimmy Carter’s 1979 Grandparents Day proclamation provided a deeper sense of the value of manifesting honor and respect for grandparents throughout the nation:

“As we seek to strengthen the enduring values of the family, it is appropriate that we honor our grandparents.

Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate   grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society  a link to our national heritage and traditions.

We all know grandparents whose values transcend passing fads and pressures, and who possess the wisdom of distilled pain and joy. Because they are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them,  they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations.”

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani once weighed in on the value of grandparents when he said, “What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”

Given so many expressions of sentiment, it puts the value of grandparents into a clearer perspective. Sadly, it is easy to take the ones we love for granted. However, such sentiments toward the older generation could catch on more substantially among more and more of the younger generation. Hopefully, a more genuine sense of the value of grandparents could make a significant difference throughout the nation.  The fundamental question that could be asked is simply: Where would the world be without them?

Happy Grandparents Day to all grandmas and grandpas everywhere!

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Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member  at West Valley College in California.  He also currently writes a column on history and one on American freedom for the Communities at the Washington Times.


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