George Washington is not known as the Soldier of our Country, even though he may have been our greatest soldier. George is not called the Policeman of our Country, although he had immense police-type powers during our Revolutionary War. Washington is not honored as one of early America’s greatest farmers, albeit he and Martha owned or controlled over 300 human beings and 50,000 acres of land. No, George Washington’s greatest honor is that he is recognized as the Father of America.
George’s wife, Martha née Dandridge, Custis, Washington, ran their immense business enterprise during George’s long absences and she set the example of service by her personal sacrifices to the Revolution. Martha and George had no children, but they took a great deal of interest in Thomas Posey who was the son of a neighbor. Posey rose to be a general and governor of the Northwest Territory. Posey County, Indiana is named for him.
America does not have a particular individual woman honored as the Mother of our Country, but the women who could be so recognized are legion. My selection, after my own sainted mother, would be Eleanor née Roosevelt Roosevelt (1884-1962). Eleanor was born a Roosevelt and she married Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was every bit as vital as Franklin to America’s recovery from the Great Depression and victory in WWII as well as a force for equal rights for women and minorities. Eleanor may not have been present in 1776 but she certainly played the nurturing mother role to the United States at a time it might otherwise have succumbed to economic or military destruction. Eleanor and Franklin had six children of their own but an entire generation of Americans, including my parents, looked to Franklin and Eleanor for hope and parental type guidance.
There is a reason we apply our most honored title, Mother or Father, to people such as Eleanor Roosevelt and George Washington. The great majority of us have been blessed to have at least one parent, and often more, that we absolutely could rely on to have our best interests at heart. It is a sad reality that many people have not had loving parents, but for those individuals often others have played that parental role. Of course, unfortunately there are many who have had neither parents nor mentors to provide the care, character, confidence and discipline they have needed during the tough times we all experience. However, hopefully, society has or should have stepped in to help those whom fate has dealt such a hand.
And our country is currently dealing with the type of character testing crises where a parent’s loving and steady influence would be most helpful. When we hear calls to “defund” the police what we are really hearing are anguished pleas for equal treatment; the kind of treatment a wise parent might provide when rules have been broken and competing desires are clashing. Perhaps as we consider ways to reorganize our 18,000 police departments we can seek to hire people who think of their fellow citizens as they would their children instead of as strangers, and we can train them to use restraint instead of force unless they are given no other choice.
This approach with police agencies might also work with our politicians. We have already spent trillions trying to temporarily staunch the flow of disease and despair. Maybe we could begin to incorporate the lessons and ideals of parenting into our treatment of one another. For example, would any loving parent place his or her knee on a child for eight minutes? Or would a parent simply give a child a small sum of money and tell them when that’s gone, “Good luck”?
Parental type love and discipline can be taught to and demanded of those who are sworn to serve us. Such an approach might save lives and money and it would certainly be preferable to abuses of power and wasted resources. So, not for just one day, here’s to my Mother and Father and all those who think of others before themselves and show by example how that is done.
— James (Jim) M. Redwine was born in Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma. He is a graduate of Pawhuska High School, Indiana University, I.U. School of Law, the Indiana Graduate Judges College and the National Judicial College. He lives at JPeg Osage Ranch in rural Osage County, Oklahoma with his wife, Peg. Jim and Peg have 3 grown children, 7 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.