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A. Ray Lee

A forgotten holiday 

By A. Ray Lee


Sept. 12, a national holiday honoring a large segment of the American population quietly passed with little recognition.  

Perhaps it is because this holiday occurs on a Sunday, and does not offer paid time off from work, that it draws little attention. But a more likely reason is that many people do not know such a day exists. 

Let me share with you a little of its history.  

In 1969 a 9-year-old boy sent a letter to President Nixon asking him to institute a national day of recognition for grandparents. Although the president took no positive action to fulfill the boy’s request, there were others who responded.  

The idea of a national day of honor for grandparents and their generation resonated in the heart of Marian McQuade. She made it a personal crusade to see they received recognition for their contributions to society. 

Because of her efforts and the support of other like-minded people, President Carter signed a proclamation Aug. 3, 1978, establishing a holiday and setting its annual observance to be the first Sunday after Labor Day. 

The proclamation stated in part that, “Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives. (They) fill some of the gaps in our mobile society. (They) provide a link to our national heritage and traditions. Grandparents possess the wisdom of distilled pain and joy.” 

Grandparents provide stability for an increasingly confused and volatile society. They are a magnetic force drawing together scattered and sometimes fragmented families.  

In their “golden years,” grandparents often step in when their children – either by default or circumstances beyond their control – do not live up to their parental responsibilities. They have given hope to an untold number of at-risk grandchildren by sacrificing hard-earned life savings and long-anticipated retirement plans. 

Not-for-profit service organizations rely heavily upon volunteer participation most often provided by those who have retired from a lifetime of work but feel they still have something of worth to give to society.  

Medical auxiliaries rely on the support and participation of a generation of people who give freely of themselves and their time, asking for nothing in return other than to know they are making a difference in the lives of others.   

Grandparents are empowering resources in community and church life. They are generous with their gifts to worthy organizations.  

Often, they are both the leaders and targets of fundraising events.  

Declining churches depend upon their steadfast examples of Christian love, leadership and tithes to continue to exist and minister.  

Grandparents, both biological and surrogate, are surely a national treasure. Belatedly, we salute and honor you and your generation for enriching our lives.