In the 1920s, my daddy had big dreams. He wanted to fly airplanes. But like many other people who endured the double blows of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, he didn’t get the chance to follow his dream. Decades later, both my parents still talked of bank failures and families who lost their farms during some of the toughest times for our country. By the time WWII came along, my mother and daddy already had three young boys. Daddy tried to enlist to be a fighter pilot in the war, but the Army Air Forces (as it was known then) said he was too old, or at least that’s the explanation I heard. When the war finally ended, Daddy desperately wanted a job flying the new passenger planes. But that didn’t work out either. My mother told me that those jobs also went to younger men.
So Daddy moved from one job to another: he was a salesman, he fixed cars, he was a janitor. He liked working with his hands, doing repairs around the house. And like a zillion other families, we got by.
When I was a senior in high school, I started thinking about college. I wanted to be a teacher, and that meant I needed a college diploma. But my mother said it was out of the question. She pointed out that we couldn’t afford college, that she and Daddy just didn’t make enough money. Besides, my daddy had had a heart attack, and now it took both of my parents’ paychecks to manage. Then Daddy surprised both of us, saying: “Let her try, Polly.” And I was off and running.
There were lots of bumps and wrong turns along the way. But eventually, I made it. Whatever I did, my Daddy believed in me. He would say, “That’s my Betsy." That kind of sacrifice – a sacrifice fueled by love – is why I’m in this fight all the way: for access to healthcare, for a living wage, for affordable education, for keeping families together. All of our children deserve a chance to succeed. And all of our parents deserve the peace of mind knowing their hard work created a better future for their children and grandchildren.
Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies who are trying their hardest to give their children a strong future – and who set the example every day of what it means to care for the people you love.