Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

How the signers became "founding fathers"

June 19, 2011 by Rachel Bradshaw


Today, dads everywhere will be firing up the grill or taking that well-deserved nap in honor of their day.  While you think of the perfect way to celebrate the father-figures in your life, I’d like you to add a few more to your list—the Founding Fathers.

Why thank the Founding Fathers?

The Founding Fathers committed treason to declare our independence.  They fought a war and won a revolution to create a sovereign nation built on the ideals of liberty and democracy.  They wrote a little document known as the Constitution that laid the foundation for our government and our rights.  Throughout American history we can look to those men who have fought to protect our liberties and pave the way for our futures.  Supporting us, protecting us, and planning for our futures?  Sounds like paternal instinct to me.

Same Job, New Name

The great men of American history were not always called the “Founding Fathers,” however.  The phrase was coined by Warren G. Harding in 1916 during a speech to the Republican National Convention.  He used the phrase again in his inauguration speech in 1921[1].  This group of “Founding Fathers” tends to encapsulate those who fought in the American Revolution and were influential in achieving our liberties through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

In Thanks

On Father’s Day, take time to thank your father, grandfather, uncles, and mentors who have provided you guidance and support.  Whether it is through a phone call, a card, or a good old-fashioned hug, thank them for their influence on your life story.  And in the meantime, thank the Founding Fathers for their influence on history, which is really your history, as we are all “We the People.”

[1] Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle American History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 16.

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