An Open Letter to My Father: What It Means to Be a Man

Subject: An Open Letter to My Father: What It Means to Be a Man
From: Your Son Bob
Date: 17 Jun 2015

Dear Dad,

I am writing about what it means to be a man.

You are, for me, the best example of a man I respect. You have led our family and community in so many ways during the past 60 plus years. As I have learned from you, I want Good Men Project readers to learn from me. What have you done that has made you a man worthy of such respect and admiration?

You Made Visions Real
You were instrumental as President of the school board in building a second high school in our hometown — the only suburban district to have a second high school. It wasn’t a popular choice for many in the community, including me. I had lifelong friends headed to the other high school and remember upon hearing the news when I was in grade school, crying on your bed. It was a tough call but your foresight created opportunities for twice as many young people to participate in sports and other activities and for the school system to absorb the growing population.

You Appreciated the Past
You’ve always known and respected what you’ve learned from those before you. You participated in the Jewish History Project, a volunteer effort to record the Jewish history of the City of Toledo. The project took more than five years to complete and culminated in a commemorative book that outlines the interviews and history that were captured throughout the project. Still today as I drive you to work once a week you point out the stores and offices that used to line the downtown streets. It is a rare combination of man that so celebrates the past while at the same time holding such compelling images of a better future.

You Offered Kindness Toward Others
You are one of the kindest people I know. For more than 20 years you visited residents of a local nursing home, bringing fruit and sitting with them to, as you would say, “kibbetz” a while. It’s not uncommon to stop in every once in a while to visit an elderly relative. Visiting others that you and your parents knew from years ago every weekend for 20 plus years? Enormously uncommon. While just another stop on your weekend hunt for grocery bargains, I can imagine for some of these people it was one of the highlights of their week. I’ve learned from you to take time to help others along my way in life.

You Acted With Determination
You personally placed over 400 phone calls to people urging them to vote for a recent school levy and to pass the word along to others that they knew. You did this when you were 80, a time in life when most let others do the heavy lifting. Learning has always been important to you. Schools have always mattered. Through this story and others, I’ve learned from you to buckle down and get the job done when needed.

You Remained Optimistic
Maybe the greatest gift you’ve given me is an optimistic bias toward life. The positive outlook ingrained in your DNA was reflected in your being president of the – no kidding – Toledo Optimist Club through the early 1960s. This service-oriented organization provided charitable contributions to those in need in the community. When people wonder how I can continue to see all my glasses as half full, I proudly tell them how my Dad was literally a “card carrying member” of an Optimist’s Club.

You’ve Been in it for the Long Haul
In today’s ADD society it’s easy to get carried away with the “next great thing.” You’ve never fallen for that trap. You’ve decided what’s important, committed yourself to the cause, and your actions reflect your true objectives. Wow, I can’t count the number of times you mentioned at dinner that you had donated blood that day. And not just that day … but more than eight gallons to the American Red Cross over more than four decades.

You Shared What You Know With Others
I’ve also learned from you how important it is to teach others. For 10 years on Tuesday mornings you taught elementary school kids how to read in a mentoring program. Your law practice could wait – at least on Tuesday mornings. I’ve taken these lessons into my consulting practice, teaching leaders and other consultants about organizations and change.

You Organized the Community
Since we spend so much time at work, seeing and creating organizations as communities has never been more important. Way back in the mid 1980s I learned from you the power of community as you spearheaded the campaign to “Save Macy’s,” one of the last major stores in downtown Toledo. You circulated petitions, organized a rally and communicated with corporate leaders in the New York offices of the company. Unfortunately, the economic indicators required the store’s closing but not without a fight from you and those you recruited to join your cause. Pulling the city, or any organization, together for a common cause is an important trait of a good leader.

You Led Celebrations
Celebrations are a part of organizational life that are all too often forgotten, lost in the shuffle of getting the next item checked off a never-ending to do list. You chaired a committee to select an artistic work to honor the 100th anniversary of the County Courthouse. Many others did not, would not, take the time to get involved in ensuring this celebration was done well. You did.

Dad, thank you for being my definition of a man who embodies all the qualities I associate with goodness. We’d do well if more men in the world were as good as you.


Your Son Bob