Father of the Year Award Acceptance Speech

New York City | May 28, 1964

It's not your accomplishments, or your annuities, but your attitudes that shape the lifelong attitudes of your children. And I don't think I'm the father of this or any year unless my children grow up with some sense of commitment and hopefulness about the problems of our age.

It's a sign of the times that in a year when I've made six trips abroad to 18 countries plus numerous trips within the U.S.A. taking me away from home about 50% of the time I could still be named Father of the Year.

But that's typical of life these days. The modern father gulps down a cup of coffee, kisses his wife, drops the kids at school, and catches the 8:40 to Afghanistan. A week later he comes home, kisses his wife, and the kids say, "Hi, Dad...were you tied up in traffic?"

With the increasing pace of things today, some of the time-honored traditions of fatherhood are changing. You get so busy at the office--and I've been pretty busy at two offices--you almost have to have a deputy to take the children to the ballgame, and a special assistant to read them bed-time stories.

The truth is I do get to the ballgame with my sons now and then. But one of these days, I'll have to break the news to them, that baseball really isn't a five-inning game.

The pressures we all live under are getting so furious that it's more of a challenge than ever to be a responsible breadwinner and a responsible father at the same time. I have four children--I know that's not very impressive for a member of the Kennedy family. But what more can you expect from an in-law! In fact, when our son, Mark, our fourth child, was born a couple of months ago, my brother-in-law, Bobby, said, "Congratulations--that's half the battle."

Well it is a battle -- to raise children these days, in the old traditions and values. It's a battle to keep them from absorbing the cynicism, the negative attitudes that were born out of the cold war, and are now, like smog and fallout, part of our atmosphere.

One of the things that pleases me most about the success of the Peace Corps, is that it's given so many young men and women a chance to dedicate themselves to a positive attitude, a positive idea--the idea of service, of helping others.

I suppose the most important role of the parent in the home is not as Chief Justice over the children, not as Director of the Budget, not as Secretary of Labor, -- not even as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare -- though he is all of those things.

What he should be most of all is Minister of Attitudes. If adults can inspire, by their own example, healthy, positive attitudes in. a youngster, that is half the battle. It's more than half the battle, in fact -- it's the whole war.

That's part of the job the Peace Corps is trying to do with youngsters in the underdeveloped countries. And in that respect, there's still plenty of room for development in our own country. So I guess what I'm saying is that parents have to run their own Peace Corps, in a sense, at home. They have to teach--to inspire-- by their own example. If the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons, so are the virtues.

It's not your accomplishments, or your annuities, but your attitudes that shape the lifelong attitudes of your children. And I don't think I'm the father of this or any year unless my children grow up with some sense of commitment and hopefulness about the problems of our age. Those are the facts of life I'd like them to learn--and if I stay home long enough in a given year, they will learn--just as sure as they'll learn, some day, that there are nine innings in a baseball game.