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On Fatherhood and Decency

I am a father and a grandfather. My two boys (yes, I still think of them as my boys) have grown to be fine young men.  My two granddaughters, eight and three years old, are a constant joy to me. I love them, and I am proud of them. I cannot think of them otherwise.

This is why one exchange in the recent "debate" between Trump and Biden has stood out in mind. It is probably not the one you may be thinking about.

It is not when Trump refused to condemn white supremacy. It is not when he denigrated our electoral process. It is not when he suggested violence to his followers should he lose the "rigged" election. It is not even one of the cavalcade of lies that were part of his belligerent screed.


The moment that has caused me to reflect was the exchange about Biden's sons. 

Biden was defending the service of his son, Beau, when Trump barged in to desperage his other son, Hunter. Trump's maneuver, to ignore Beau's service and to try to denigrate Hunter, was craven and cruel.  But what struck me was Biden's response. He did not focus on Trump's crass comment. He did not respond in kind by naming any of Trump's children. Instead, he looked into the camera and told a world audience that one son had served honorably in the military and the other had overcome addiction. He said, simply and from his heart, the he loved his boys and that he was proud of his sons. 

In that exchange, I recognized more clearly than ever before that Trump has no sense of decency. He will say anything, do anything and use anything--even another person's children--to try to humiliate, degrade and embarrass whomever might disagree with him or stand in his way.

Truly, I cannot understand how any father watching and listening could forgive Trump's shameful attack on Biden's sons.  I cannot understand how any Trump supporter can argue that Trump is a decent person.

My own father was a stoic parent. He left high school in the tenth grade to go to work during the Depression to help his family. Then he served in World War II. I came along after the war.  While growing up in the 50s and 60's, I recall that he held to a more traditional view of being a good father.  He often worked two jobs, put food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.  It was not until after I got into college that we became more affectionate with one another.  He seemed to get more comfortable as he and I both got older in expressing his feelings. We would hug and kiss each other on our cheeks when we would meet and depart.  One of my favorite memories is when he visited me while I was teaching at the business school at the University of Texas at Austin.  I invited him to sit in on my four-hour executive education course.  So he came and sat with the thirty executives from around the U.S. attending the program.  The class went well.  Afterward, he told me that I had done a wonderful job and that he was happy to see me teach.  

My last time with my Dad was two weeks before he passed away from complications of cirrhosis of the liver.  He had struggled with alcoholism, and he knew that he did not have long to live.  We had a good visit, and then hugged and kissed good-bye.  I knew that he loved me and was proud of me. And that has heartened me over the years.

I am glad that Hunter knows that his father loves him and is proud of him. I assume Beau knew that too.

I want my sons and granddaughters to know, unmistakably, that I love them and am proud of them.


In this election, we have one person who, in my view, lacks any sense of decency.  In a way, I pity Trump that he is incapable of acknowledging and respecting the unconditional devotion of a father for his children.  How sad to be the kind of person who so willingly weaponizes the children of others for his own sordid ends.

Biden may not be the most compelling political leader, and one may not agree with all his policies.  But he is a good father and a decent man.  Those are attributes of a president, I would argue, that we desperately need in our country today.

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