SAN JOSE, September 7, 2014 – Be sure to say: “Happy Grandparents Day!” to your grandma or grandpa today.
Sadly, many American citizens may not even realize that a Grandparents Day exists. Some might be suspicious that Congress snuck it into law only recently and this may be why people are surprised that it is a national holiday.
Nevertheless, there really is a National Grandparents Day. On August 3, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential proclamation creating a National Grandparents Day to be held on September 10th of that year. In 1979, 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.
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.”
Unfortunately, Grandparents Day, as a national holiday in the United States,is often overshadowed by the excitement and energy surrounding the start of the college and professional football seasons, and the bustle of getting kids back to school. Sadly, Grandparents Day, grandparents, and most old folks who lived through so much of life, are often low on a long list of priorities.
For a good number of Americans, National Grandparents Day is not on the list of primary family holidays to celebrate as one would remember Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and many Americans may not share a view that Grandparents Day has much current significance. Celebrations of Grandparents Day in many households assume a secondary role in the family activities.Take note of the focus this particular Sunday as the NFL kicks off its first Sunday lineup of games this season. Yet, it is far too easy to point a finger at the NFL Game Day. In such a highly technologically advanced society, there are any number of distractions that rob grandma and grandpa a single day to honor them or to simply share how much you value them.
Yet, Grandparents Day may become an increasingly important holiday in the future as a majority of the generation of “Baby Boomers” become grandparents. According to Generations United, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., within this decade, the number of grandparents will grow to approximately 80 million by 2020. This number represents an increase from the 65 million in 2011.
The increased impact of the holiday is already beginning to show up. Last year witnessed an increase in awareness of the holiday, apparently in part by the campaign of another advocacy organization called Caring Across Generations, which seems to be more a politically-driven group seeking power in an effort to assist home care workers as the co-director, Ai-jen Poo, is also director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
On the other hand, Marion McQuade of West Virginia, the recognized founder of National Grandparents Day, seemed to have a less politically motivated agenda. Her service to the elderly population dated all the way back to 1956, and she eventually served on the West Virginia Commission on Aging and the Nursing Home Licensing Board in her home state of West Virginia.She emphasized the value of the important contributions senior citizens have made throughout history as she educated the young people in the communities where she worked. She also taught grandchildren to recognize the wisdom and heritage they could receive from their own grandparents. Ultimately, she started campaigning for a day to honor grandparents.
On May 27, 1973, West Virginia became the first state in the Union that created a special day to honor grandparents when Governor Arch Moore proclaimed the institution of Grandparents Day. In that same year, Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia introduced a resolution in the Senate to also make the holiday a national holiday.
Unfortunately, as with many good ideas, Congress did not want to be bothered with it, and it did not make it out of the initial committee. That is when McQuade, a 56 year old housewife, went into action. She lobbied all 50 state governments by contacting the governors and the legislators and promoting Grandparents Day for all of the states. By 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, Mrs. McQuade had received Grandparents’ Day proclamations from forty-three states.
Mrs. McQuade forwarded him collection of state proclamations to Senator Randolph who re-introduced legislation requesting incoming President Jimmy Carter to “issue annually a proclamation designating the first Sunday of September after Labor Day of each year as ‘National Grandparents’ Day’.” Based upon the earnest efforts of Mrs. McQuade, Congress considered and passed the legislation. She passed away in 2008, after she reached the age of 91, and after having raising 15 children, and having been able to enjoy the love of 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
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.
It is incredibly significant to maintain a perspective of the value of one’s grandparents, and for all of the other seniors in our society. It would make an incredibly positive difference throughout the nation if parents could find the capacity to share that perspective with their children and provide a model for the love of parents on this day, as well as everyday – it just may be returned to those who become grandparents one day in the future.