Give a firm handshake and look people in the eye.
If you did something wrong, admit it. If you lie about it, you just made it worse.
Always respect your mother.
These are three of many pieces of advice I learned from my father while growing up – and they’ve stuck with me my entire life. Be honest. Have integrity. Show respect to others. Simple advice perhaps, yet too often missing in our culture and our political discourse today. To me, it is a reminder that the best advice doesn’t always come from a motivational speaker, a national leader, or even from people who are renowned experts in their fields. Sometimes the best life lessons are found deep in the roots of where we came from.
Growing up, I was fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with my dad – a father of five and one of the hardest working men I have ever known. His dad died when he was only fourteen, and my father started helping his mother run the family business throughout his teen years, eventually taking it over. When he wasn’t working, I loved watching the WWII themed T.V. show, “Combat,” with him and periodically going to Reds games. To this day, nothing means more than hearing him say, “I’m proud of you.”
A little over three years ago, my wife Monica and I were blessed with a son of our own, Brad, Jr., and our lives were changed for the better. Parents will always tell you this, but you never truly understand until you have a child of your own: they’re always watching and listening. And Brad, Jr. is. Sometimes he calls Monica, “honey” because that is what he hears me say. He likes to sit at my desk, making “calls” and writing “notes.” He puts on my shoes. He carries my briefcase. He calls the closet in my office his “office,” and lets me know that he’s heading to work, just like Dad.
As a dad, it’s my everyday mission to try to be an example to Brad and share the wisdom that my dad passed along to me. To me, that’s what makes being a dad special: from day one, you’re a friend, a role model, and a guiding force that helps put your kids on a path to being a kind, hardworking, and optimistic citizen of our country.
In the aftermath of the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice this week, reporters kept asking me: “What were you thinking out there? Were you afraid you were going to die?” But in the flash of the moment you don’t think. Instincts kick in. I simply did what I had been trained to do. Only after it was over and I was back at the Capitol hugging Brad, Jr. did I really think about how blessed I was to have made it out alive. Because, while I’ve had a few three letter titles next to my name: COL, REP, DPM – none of them will ever be as important as DAD.
As we commemorate Father’s Day after a tough week, reflecting simple lessons I learned from my own dad and that I try to pass on to Brad, Jr. is especially poignant. They were the building blocks of my character – the values that still guide me today. Perhaps someone influential in your life taught you life lessons that helped form your character. I’m convinced that our nation could gain a lot by better applying these lessons today, both to our individual lives and to our political environment as a whole.
If we did, I think we would be reminded that one of the reasons our country is exceptional was not just because we had influential leaders or a grand vision for the future. Our nation stands out because of everyday Americans like my dad — Americans who have pride in their work, place value on honesty, character, and commitment, and who pass those lessons on to their children. And that is the reason we can have hope for tomorrow.
Thanks, Dad. I love you.