Father’s Day gives us a chance to celebrate dads and thank them for everything they do for their families. As any dad can attest, raising our four kids was both the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Jean and I are incredibly proud of our kids, and we’ve enjoyed watching them grow and start families of their own. We look forward to spending time with them this Father’s Day, however this year it will look a little different. This is the first Father’s Day without my dad, Grandpa Don, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 90.
Grandpa Don was a shining example of what it meant to be a dad. He always put God and his family first and dedicated his life to serving others. He was a hard worker, a good provider, and he always saw the good in everyone. While we miss him every day, we are grateful for the lifelong lessons he taught not just his family, but everyone who knew him.
One lesson in particular that stands out is advice he used to share in the 1960s, when he often gave commencement speeches at high school graduations. As the oldest child, my dad would sometimes let me come along for these speeches, and his message to the students sticks with me today.
Those old enough to live through the 1960s can remember that it was a time when it wasn’t “cool” to be “square.” According to the cool kids back then, being a “square” meant being conventional, boring, inhibited and nerdy – definitely not part of the cool crowd. So, my dad would tell the graduates about the real meaning of “square. ” To him and his generation, being “square” was a good thing. You were honest so you could look people “square” in the eye. When you worked your way out of debt, you became “square” with the world. If someone was hungry, you gave him a “square” meal. You stood “foursquare” for what you believed in.
He told graduates that they should be “square” because “square” really meant being honest, fair, genuine, upright, straightforward and ethical, as in always giving other people a “square deal.” The phrase “square deal” was coined by President Teddy Roosevelt. It was his philosophy that we should not grant special favors to any group of Americans, but to be fair to all. At the end of his commencement speeches, dad would invite the graduates to be “squares” for the rest of their lives.
In today’s society, dad’s graduation message resonates stronger than ever. I am grateful to be able to pass along his advice, especially with young people, as I did recently at Boys and Girls State and while delivering the commencement address at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. These young people – and so many like them across the state – are smart, talented and driven to make the world a better place. While we recognize their accomplishments, we are also grateful for the fathers behind the scenes, offering unconditional love, support and sacrifice. May we all take a moment this Father’s Day to celebrate the dads in our lives whose guidance helps us be stronger, better and more “square” in our daily lives.
—By Sen. Mike Rounds