The Answer is Up to Us
At Be There Dad, we have always stressed the importance of role models. Part of our mission has been to have men present in schools and elsewhere, so children can see them and emulate their positive attributes.
Rules for Success
Last week I watched the funeral of General Colin Powell, a role model and hero to many of us. Many have remembered General Powell for his famous 13 rules. Those rules have provided vision, structure and inspiration to many people over many years. Those rules are:
1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position fails, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done.
5. Be careful what you choose.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
A Son’s Perspective: Rules for Life
These rules can provide a road map for a successful life. While I have read these rules before and sought to follow the wisdom contained within them; Friday I heard “the rest of the story”. I listened closely as Mr. Powell’s son, Michael eulogized his father. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4985272/michael-powell-eulogizes-father
Michael did not emphasize his father’s rules, structure or methods, but rather he spoke of his kindness, caring and love for others. This loving son illuminated the difference between what David Brooks calls resume virtues and eulogy virtues. The first list includes a person’s skills, accomplishments and successes often documented on his resume. The second is how people will remember you at your funeral – the qualities of your core being. Michael suggested that few people could match the long and impressive list of his father’s resume virtues; but we could all take example from his eulogy virtues – his character – to be kind, brave, honest, faithful – and to strive not to just do good, but to BE good.
Given the powerful impact of his father, Michael recalled what many have asked about him, “are we still making his kind?” In other words, can others follow in his footsteps and be like him? His son’s honest response – “I think the answer is up to us.”
What I saw in Michael Powell that day was a son who had been raised, guided, and influenced by the positive qualities of a loving, caring father. Despite his enormous public status, duties, and responsibilities; privately, Colin Powell was a man who loved and cherished his family. He took his children by the hand and led them down the path of life. He taught them the lessons of values and faith – as much by his actions as by his words. We wait to celebrate the character of our loved ones at their funerals; but, it was obvious that his son had recognized and lived by his father’s example throughout his life.
Moments like that rekindle my belief that dads are powerful forces in the lives of their children. Moments like that remind me that despite the many obligations and responsibilities we have as men, our primary responsibility is to be dads to our children. Our true legacy will live on in the character of our children.
Can we still help to “make them” like Colin Powell? As the younger Powell suggested, isn’t the answer up to us? Shouldn’t that beautiful tribute to a father encourage us to ask if our children see us exhibiting similar traits of kindness, honesty, faithfulness and goodness? We can choose to be good. We can choose to focus on our eulogy virtues. And like his father, Colin, as dads we can choose to impart those virtues on our children. Scripture instructs us, “… brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” The answer is truly is up to us.
To accomplish all we need to do and still be responsible to our children, we must be accountable to ourselves. As role models, we must be the kind of persons we want our children to be. Actions speak louder than words. Colin Powell’s thirteen rules or other comparable ones can provide guidance in the pursuit of our resume virtues; but there remains the challenge to pursue those other virtues.
Most of us benefit from someone who can help us stay attentive and accountable. I have a friend who calls me every week. He checks in to see how I am doing. He asks about my family. He wonders if I am “doing all right” this week. We share concerns about the news of the day. We talk about our continuing progress towards becoming better dads. We commit to pray. Gently, we mentor and encourage each other. Our conversations help me work on my eulogy virtues. My friend’s presence makes me a better man, so I can strive to be a better husband and father.
Do you have someone who helps you strive to “be good”?
Every day we see role models in persons embodying outstanding character. If we choose to follow their example; perhaps our sons and daughters, like Michael Powell, will see us as being good persons and benefit from the lessons we teach.
Something to think about.