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Father of the Nation

Father of the Nation is a term used by many countries to describe a political or symbolic leader who was one of the most influential founding fathers of the nation. He may also be a key figure from the nation's history whose perceived heroism and moral authority made him in the public's eyes worthy of respect, indeed often veneration. The Father of the Nation is almost always a highly respected national figure and a source of patriotic inspiration. His image is commonly featured on banknotes, stamps, and other national memorabilia.

Perhaps the most famous "Father of the Nation" is the American revolutionary general and first president of the United States, George Washington. Washington's image as a national icon of pride and leadership has become almost a cliche to the point where other countries even sometimes refer to their own independence leaders as "our George Washington."

While many states have held a 'father of the nation' in continuing high respect since their founding, others have adopted and then abandoned some numerous figures throughout their history. Josef Stalin was seen by millions during his period of control in the Soviet Union as the national father-figure, an image augmented deliberately by images released of him in the pose of a father or grandfather patting children on their head. Such was his esteem that a wave of suicides was recorded when his death was announced, with people suggesting that life without Stalin to guide them was unthinkable. Within a few years however, when his successors revealed the truth about Stalin's reign of terror, his popularity plummeted and his body was removed from the mausoleum where it had been laid alongside Lenin.

In Ireland, though he remained a controversial figure, to the majority of the electorate and the supporters of the state's biggest political party (whom he founded and led for 33 years) Eamon de Valera was seen as the father of the nation up to his death in 1975. However in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s his reputation too underwent a re-evaluation, with the public moving away from their unfettered enthusiasm for 'deV' and his achievements and instead focusing interest on leaders like Michael Collins whom de Valera in his lifetime had tried to sideline.

Sun Yat-sen is regarded the Guofu (國父) in the Republic of China (now on Taiwan). The term is not used for Mao Zedong in mainland China.

The deposed King Mohammed Zahir Shah has been called "Father of the Nation" of Afghanistan by current President Hamid Karzai, in some sense a compromise with those wishing to restore the monarchy; and a 2003 draft constitution in fact explicitly awards this title to Zahir Shah.

Countries and their national "father(s)":

Some of the above "paternities" are matters of political contention in their respective countries, while others are widely accepted on a non-partisan basis.

See also: Pater Patriae