Last Sunday, most Americans took time to reflect upon the paternal love and support received from their fathers. And for those who are fortunate enough to still have their fathers remain a part of their lives, it was a time to give a warm and personal "thanks."
However, this is a thanks that is not limited to those "birth fathers" who were there in the delivery room or in the waiting room passing out cigars. It is just as much about honoring those fathers by adoption and step-fathers, who came into a child's life at a later stage.
On occasion, someone will come up and ask me if I ever felt cheated or was resentful for the fact that I was adopted into the Reagan family. The answer is a resounding "no." As I have said in the past, our family was/is not perfect –– not unlike any other American family in many respects. But, through all of the trials and tribulations that came with our family's incredibly bright spotlight, I will never be able to express the appreciation I have for my father, and the love and lessons learned, which I continue to carry with me to this day.
Whether it was how to solve an algebraic problem, talk to a girl or even developing a position on America's tax system, my father helped me grow as a young man, and more importantly, he set the stage for me to become the father I am today.
You see, fatherhood isn't a blood right, nor is it an entitlement. The title "father" is one that must be worked at, and ultimately, it is one that must be earned. And for those of us fortunate enough to have grown up with a father invested in our lives, we must ensure we work to develop the same, or an even stronger bond with our own children.
My father, the Ronald Reagan that everyone knows as one of the greatest presidents in our nation's history, was the same man who comforted me as a young child when I was frightened, and ultimately, helped me understand what it meant to be a good, honest man. He was the man who gave me, this young boy without a home, an opportunity to have love in his life –– and an opportunity to grow up and earn the most important title available to me: father.
On this special holiday we honored our fathers, whether by birth, adopted or brought into our lives by a later marriage. And we honored them, not just for the love and nurturing they have given us in the past, but what they continue to do for us today –– providing a roadmap on how to raise our very own children.
Sure, our fathers made mistakes, as do we. But what is most important is that we learn from those mistakes just as we learn from the positives.
I will never forget the memories of my father taking me up to his California ranch, getting sworn in as president, nor will I ever forget the last time I was able to hug him. I continue to miss him dearly. But I take great comfort in the fact that his legacy lives through me as a father, reminding me again what this holiday was really all about.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesperson for The Reagan PAC (www.thereaganpac.com) and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfo.