- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

A Philadelphia couple who reared five children and faced criticism for teaching morals to urban youths yesterday were honored as Parents of the Year in conjunction with National Parents' Day.
William and Nancy Devlin had moved to the inner city and while raising a family had an open-door policy to others in need, a project that in the 1980s gave rise to the now-influential Urban Family Council.
"We have made a deliberate choice to lead a very public life, which means how we raise our children, our marriage and even our finances," Mr. Devlin said before an awards dinner at the Canon House Caucus Room last night.
In his keynote speech, 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole spoke of how his parents reared him with a work ethic and values in the Kansas of the Dust Bowl era, and he said the Devlins were doing the same in the inner city.
"That is the parents' greatest living monument: their children," he said. "Everyone in this room is concerned about posterity. No civilization that neglects the family will remain civilized for long."
But Mr. Dole also brought down the House with a series of tall tales, stories and punch lines.
He said he was working on a book on "presidential humor" with the subtitle "I Wish I Was In It."
More than 20 present and former U.S. lawmakers were present, including Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and former Sen. Larry Pressler, South Dakota Republican, who was on the panel that selected the national Parents of the Year.
A White House official brought personal greetings to the Devlins from President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.
"Being a parent is the most important job in the world," Mr. Bush said Monday in his Parents' Day proclamation. "Children who lack a strong parental presence in their lives can suffer over both the short and the long term."
National Parents' Day, enacted by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1994, falls on the fourth Sunday of July. The observance was created to support "the role of parents in the rearing of children."
Both presidents have made the proclamation a time to cite their family-friendly policies, such as Mr. Clinton's Family and Medical Leave Act. Mr. Bush cited his administration's goal of strengthening fatherhood and making adoption easier.
Mr. Bush said that all mothers and fathers, "biological and adoptive, foster parents and stepparents," should be honored for their "selfless love" and their work to rear children with hope and opportunity.
That is what the Devlins wanted for their three daughters and two sons, and for the distraught parents or children in their North Philadelphia neighborhood and for youths needing rides to participate in team sports.
For his activism, Mr. Devlin was mocked by publications that disagreed with his pro-marriage religious values, and he once was stabbed. The Devlins also faced opposition from city schools for promoting programs that upheld "marriage," a term some officials viewed as "judgmental."
Mr. Devlin, the son of an alcoholic father who abandoned his family, was a combat veteran in Vietnam and a missionary to Japan.
Couples in 36 states also received the state-level honor, 35 of whom came to Washington for the event. The state winners also gathered at ceremonies with their governors, organizers said.
"This is something everyone should do as parents," said Trini Montalvo, who came to the dinner with his wife, Shelly, from Michigan.
They believe Parents' Day could equal Mother's Day and Father's Day. "Everything starts small," Mr. Montalvo said.
The couple was honored for deciding to marry after conceiving a child out of wedlock rather than aborting the baby.
Besides successfully rearing their own children, the winning couples had adopted other children, rebounded from unusual hardships, worked for racial justice or helped those with disabilities.
They also had organized projects for needy youths or to uphold the traditional family.
Since the founding of Parents' Day, the private-sector National Parents' Day Council in Alexandria has worked with state panels to give the awards both locally and nationally.
The national council is sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation.
Parents of the year from Maryland are Roy and Amy Littlefield, the parents of two. He coaches a basketball team and she a softball team both undefeated.
The Rev. Jack and Carol Deans were honored by Virginia for rearing three children, founding a Women in Crisis center and leading Terrance View Church. When the couple met, Mrs. Deans was disabled from spousal abuse.

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