Marriage and Family

"Parents' Day" Celebrated in Washington, D.C.

DC-USA-2016-08-05-"Parents Day" Celebrated in Washington, D.C.

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Washington, D.C., United States—Inspired by the U.S. holiday Parents’ Day, a banquet was held to honor the National Parents of the Year.

More than 250 people attended the 22nd annual Parents’ Day banquet on August 5, 2016, in the Arbor Ballroom of The Washington Times building. The banquet was organized by the Parents’ Day Coalition, which comprises UPF-USA and its affiliated organizations Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) USA, American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) USA, and The Washington Times Foundation.

Parents’ Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1994, one year after UPF Co-Founder Dr. Hak Jan Han Moon, addressing the U.S. Senate, proposed its creation. President Bill Clinton approved the House Joint Resolution 398, which declared the fourth Sunday of July as a recurring and perennial day of commemoration.

The award for 2016 America’s Parents of the Year was given to Lowell and America Callahan from Wheatland, California, who were nominated by Bob and Maree Gauper from the same state.

The Callahans, who have been married for 37 years, have fostered special needs children (adopting four of them) and raised seven biological children. They are advocates for parents of children with special needs, assisting Spanish-speaking families in accessing community resources and providing translation when necessary. They are devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and live their faith by caring for less fortunate people.

Awardees came from around the nation, as far as Hawaii, and from a diverse range of religious and ethnic backgrounds. Some honorees brought their children and grandchildren and were celebrated together as exemplary families with parents who have demonstrated incredible sacrifice, love and virtue in raising their children and community.

“I am amazed to see such a rich array of different races and religions represented here tonight, which I did not expect and also don’t see in other places,” said Nabeela Ahmed, a Parents of the Year award nominee from Maryland. “It’s great that what brings everyone together and unites everyone is the common vision of family love and family values.”

The 12 finalists for the National Parents of the Year award are listed below. Nine of the couples attended the banquet.

  • Pastor Mark and Edna Abernathy (Georgia)
  • Lowell and America Callahan (California)
  • Apostle Ralph L. Edwards and Prophetess Irene Edwards (New York)
  • Kenneth and Kim Fox-Muhammad (North Carolina)
  • Sen. Mike and Carol Gabbard (Hawaii)
  • Daniel and Lakeisha Meadows Ivey (North Carolina)
  • Pastor Bill and Faye McDonnell (Nevada)
  • Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr. and Dr. Susie C. Owens (Washington, D.C.)
  • Andrew and Rebecca Powell (West Virginia)
  • Dr. John and Leah Schaut (Wisconsin)
  • Andrew and Judith Ross (Illinois)
  • Phengchanh and Wilaiwan Soundara (Virginia)

Larry Moffitt, vice president of the Washington Times Foundation, was the master of ceremonies. To open the evening, Ms. Lubana Al Quntar, designated “first lady of opera” in her homeland of Syria, sang the U.S. national anthem, and Barbara Moseley-Marks, executive director of UPF-Virginia, gave a very moving invocation. During the dinner Ms. Al Quntar performed several additional songs.

Angelika Selle, president of WFWP-USA, recognized the sponsoring organizations and the national selection committee for the Parents of the Year Award. Afterward, Rev. Tom Cutts, executive director of ACLC, spoke about the history of Parents’ Day.

“The founders of our country recognized the importance of virtue,” Rev. Cutts said. “I believe that the establishment of Parents’ Day takes the American experiment one step further toward the constitutional ideal of our founders. Not only does society require good morality and public virtue, but we also need true and loving parents. Today we are celebrating more than just fatherhood and motherhood. I have heard it said that the best gift a father can give his child is to love the child’s mother. So tonight we are also celebrating husbands and wives, and healthy marriages.”

After this message, Richard de Sena, president of UPF-USA, reported about Parents’ Day programs across America, which celebrated and expressed gratitude for all outstanding parents. He also gave an overview of Parents’ Day plans for the future. Several speakers gave congratulatory remarks, including UPF North American Regional Chair Dr. Ki Hoon Kim.

Tom McDevitt, chair of UPF-USA, introduced the finalists for the 2016 National Parents of the Year award. Each couple and family was greeted onstage with rousing applause, as they received their plaque of recognition and gifts. In response, three couples also spoke brief words of gratitude to the organizers.

“What moved me most and brought me to tears were the individual stories of the awardees’ unique life experiences and accomplishments, as told in their introductions,” said Stanley Marks, an attendee from the state of Virginia.

Attendee Roberto Turconi from the state of Maryland said, “I was very inspired by the testimony of every honored recipient, about how they used their role as parents to help other less fortunate people, and how they used their time, resources and energy to build a better world.”

In addition to the Parents of the Year Award, the following awards were given:

  • Legislator Parents of the Year Award: Hon. Mike and Carol Gabbard
  • Excellence in Parenting and Community Leadership Award: Andrew and Rebecca Powell, Kenneth and Kim Fox-Muhammad, Andrew and Judith Ross, Phengchanh and Wilaiwan Soundara, David and Lakeisha Meadows-Ivey (not present), and Dr. John and Lead Schaut (not present)
  • Excellence in Parenting and Pastoral Leadership Award: Pastor Mark and First Lady Edna Abernathy, Apostle Ralph and Prophetess Irene Edwards, Bishop Alfred Owens Jr. and Dr. Susan Owens, and Pastor Billy and Faye McDonell (not present).

“Seeing everyone’s face with either a big smile or tears of joy made all the work we did, starting from the nomination process to the selection and finally to the awards celebration, all worth it,” said Emiljun Rapada of UPF-USA. “It was an honor to celebrate with these exemplary couples who genuinely gave and sacrificed everything for their families and community.”

Banquet attendee Sevil Kalayci said, “It was an inspiring night, being surrounded by wonderful people who love their families. I never knew there was a day set aside to recognize outstanding parents from around the country. It’s good to see an organization that promotes families and family values. Good parents should be recognized.”

In closing, Dr. Michael Balcomb, president of FFWPU-USA, gave a dynamic call to action, inviting everyone to the upcoming September 17 celebration of the 40th anniversary of the speech given by UPF Founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon at the Washington Monument, on which day a Peace Road rally also will take place. Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., national co-chair of ACLC, gave the closing remarks and a prayer.

“Congratulations to UPF-USA for an exceptionally powerful and emotionally moving evening celebrating Parents’ Day,” said Jan Du Plain, a banquet attendee. “The selection of honorees from around the nation was extraordinary, and each honoree’s story was special, inspiring us to each love more, serve more and be the best parents possible. Thank you, UPF, for once again being at the forefront of one of the most important movements in the world—restoring God-centered families in our society.”


This report was written with input from FFWPU-USA.

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