President’s Day is a national holiday in which we celebrate George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two former Presidents of the United States of America. Their stories are full of heroism, courage, and fortitude, and we are forever indebted to them for their part in building this great nation. In honor of this holiday, we wanted to share two presidential stepparent adoption stories.
In fairytales, stepparents are usually portrayed in a negative light, but for two men who went on to lead our country, their stepparents were a source of strength. Though they did not share the same genetic makeup, each stepparent loved their boys unconditionally.
At the tender age of 9, Abraham Lincoln was forced to say good-bye to his mother as she slipped from this life into the next. It was a devastating time for the young boy and one that left a strong impression upon him for the remainder of his life.
However, a year later, Lincoln’s father remarried a woman by the name of Sarah Bush Johnston. She came to live with the Lincolns and soon she and young Abraham developed a strong relationship. She encouraged him to learn to read, write, and practice his public speaking. She engaged his love of deep thinking and was happy to spend hours conversing on the topics rolling around in his mind.
As we all know, Abraham Lincoln went on to put his reading, writing, deep thinking, and public speaking skills to use as he first became an attorney and was later elected the 16th President of the United States of America.
Abraham Lincoln attributed much of his success to his stepmother, whom he simply referred to as “Mother.” In speaking of her, he said she had been his best friend, and that no son could love a mother more than he loved her.
Such tender words for a woman who may not have been his mother through flesh, but was certainly his mother in every other way.
Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States. He was born in 1913 and was first named Leslie Lynch King Jr. Sixteen days after his birth, his mother left his father. When President Ford was 3 years old, his mother remarried a man by the name of Gerald Rudolf Ford, and they changed Leslie’s name to Gerald Ford Jr. President Ford had a happy home life and was unaware that the man he believed to be his father was actually his stepfather. At the age of 17, Gerald’s parents sat him down and explained the circumstances surrounding his birth. That same year he was able to meet his biological father, but the two never formed a relationship.
When speaking of his step-father he said, “My stepfather was a magnificent person and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn’t have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing.”[i]
Though Abraham Lincoln and Gerald Ford each experienced some form of tragedy in their early lives, they were both blessed by non-biological parents who loved them and encouraged them to pursue their dreams.
No matter the circumstances surrounding it, adoption is always born from heartache, but that doesn’t mean it has to hinder those affected by it. Sometimes, our greatest trials can project us into our greatest triumphs. President Lincoln and President Ford are both examples of this.
As we honor the office of the President of the United States, let us also honor those who helped shape the leaders of this nation: the parents, both biological, and non-biological, who contributed to the success of those men who have led us.