Once a year we celebrate our fathers whose role in our lives make such an impression. Today we celebrate all the good that comes from healthy, happy relationships with our fathers and father surrogates. Research shows everyone in the family does better when fathers do well.
In speeches, I’ve talked about the challenges my father faced struggling with alcoholism and how in spite of this debilitating disease and its manifestations in his life and scars it left in mine, he graduated from college at an early age. Somehow he was able to “hold it together” in law school too. When he made the pledge in Alcoholics Anonymous 20 years after his graduation he was able to reclaim a prominent position in Philadelphia’s legal community. Lesson learned: Education matters.
My paternal grandfather had many fewer opportunities but made our lives better through his entrepreneurial efforts as a small businessman. Though poorly educated and barely educated in tough economic times or emergencies, and there were more than a few, Pop was able to support my grandmother, mother and me. He was a father when mine was missing. Lesson learned: Hard work matters. Then there was my uncle, Walter, who stepped in every summer from the first day of the break until the weekend before school started back. He, too, had few educational opportunities in a small Virginia farming community, but he was able to build a small, lucrative upholstery business in Washington, DC. He loved to take my cousins on weekend trips to his family farm in the Shenandoah Mountains. It was there that I learned to feed the hogs and chickens, plant the garden and kneel in prayer before every meal. Lesson learned: Take care of the land and it will take care of you.
Pop and Uncle Veney filled the empty fatherly role when my dad was unable. They are among the men who have loved me, nurtured me and supported me. I did better because of them. Lesson learned: Family matters and extended family matters too.
Today is a good day to celebrate them and their unselfish love for family and community.
This is dedicated to the men who give to those they love and to those who need it. Special recognition to Cabral Franklin and James T. Isom.