Father’s Day is a time to celebrate dads and to thank them for all that they have given their children. Being a parent is difficult, but imagine that responsibility coupled with being the leader of a nation. On this day, let’s look at the presidential fathers.
Author Joshua Kendall wrote a book titled First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama, in which he talks about the commanders in chief and their children. Not all presidents had kids of their own, including George Washington, who helped raise his wife’s children.
John Adams was the second president of the U.S. Kendall noted that he was “an authoritarian father and authoritarian president.” He and his wife had six children, four of whom survived. It is said that he told his son John Quincy that he would either be president or a failure, and the son went on to become the sixth president.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, who became America’s third president in 1801, believed in family values. In 1789, he wrote to his brother Randolph that “no society is so precious as that of one’s own family.” In a different letter, this time to Francis Willis, Jefferson wrote that he longed for domestic tranquility within the “bosom” of his family.
Jefferson and his wife Martha had six children, but only two daughters survived to adulthood. The eldest died during childbirth and the president helped to raise his grandchildren as well. According to Kendall, Jefferson was “America’s most articulate advocate of freedom,” however, “with his daughters he was a control freak.”
Historians suggest Jefferson may have also had up to six children with a slave at his Monticello plantation, Sally Hemings. The situation is not clear, but it appears two of the children, born into slavery, were allowed to “run away” to the North, while one died in infancy, and the others were freed in Jefferson’s will, after his death.
Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th president at the age of 42, the youngest president in the nation’s history. Teddy, as he was affectionately called, enjoyed playing with his children. He used to stage pillow fights and playacted like a bear, using an upturned table to represent his den. “He had a young family and they loved playing in the White House,” Kendall said. “He used to stop working at three o’clock and go and play tag in the attic.”
Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, had three daughters with his first wife, Ellen. Just two years into his presidency, Ellen died, and their oldest child Margaret took over the duties of First Lady to the White House. The girls were well educated and talked endlessly with their father about universal suffrage.
Amy used to roller skate in the east room of the White House. Her doll’s house is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Some former leaders guide their children into working in the family business or help them develop their own political careers. The 45th president, Donald Trump, has five children and most of them helped him in some way during his term in the oval office.
The current president, Joe Biden, had four children: three with his first wife, Neilia, and one with Jill, his current spouse. A tragic car accident took the lives of Neilia and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi. Tragedy struck again when they lost Beau to brain cancer. The younger son, Hunter, has worked with and separately from his dad on different ventures. The two seem to be very close and can be seen attending events together.