Alexander's Column

Fatherhood: The Foundation of Liberty

Fathering Requires Real Men Who Support Their Families

By Mark Alexander · Jun. 14, 2012
“The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families… In vain are Schools, Academies, and Universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years… The vices and examples of the parents cannot be concealed from the children. How is it possible that children can have any just sense of the Sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their mothers live in habitual infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant infidelity to their mothers?” –John Adams 1778

When I think “father,” the word first invokes my relationship with the person who irrevocably shaped my own life. My Dad was always there for my siblings and me, and he was always a devoted husband to my Mom. He was and remains a real man, a man’s man in every sense of the word.

Yeah, he was also a type “A” fighter pilot – and of the most aggressive breed, a Naval Aviator. Being as I inherited that “A” gene, it’s remarkable that Dad has survived into his 90th year, given all the head-butting KOs we traded when I was a teenager. Fact is, I left home when I was 14 because our town was not big enough for the two of us – and he was not leaving.

When recalling my early trials with my father, I’m reminded of a great quote attributed to Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Like Twain, it took me a few years to figure out that my old man was a good father and a good mentor to boot. Today, I’m so grateful for the steadfast example he set, and the love we share for each other.

“Father” next evokes my relationship with my heavenly Father, my Creator. That relationship has also experienced great trials, but He has stood by me through all my trials and tribulations.

Of course, “father” also evokes thoughts about my relationship with our children, and that is precious beyond words – a greater gift I could not imagine. Thank goodness I haven’t repeated some of the mistakes my old man made with me, but I’ve certainly created some “new and improved” mistakes with my kids. I hope in due time they can summon the grace and grant the forgiveness that I’ve asked for those errors.

Finally, the word “father” evokes the heritage bequeathed to us by our forefathers and our Founding Fathers.

These four contexts for “father” – God the Father, my own earthly father, my role as father to my children, and the legacy of our forefathers – combine to create a rich and abiding sense of what fatherhood means, what it should look and feel like in heart and practice.

But for tens of millions of Americans from broken homes, the consequences of failed fatherhood are the enormous obstacles their children must endeavor to overcome in relationships with their Creator, with their own spouses and children, and in their ability to honor their forefathers' legacy.

Understanding the critical role fathers play in the welfare of the family as the fundamental building block of society has been understood throughout the history of man. In 295 B.C., Mencius wrote, “The root of the kingdom is in the state. The root of the state is in the family. The root of the family is in the person of its head.”

The Father Factor, the statistical social and cultural consequences when fathers abandon their natural role, is well documented.

Nowhere are those consequences more evident than when fatherless children, in their relentless pursuit of approval never provided by their own father, become overachievers and ascend to positions of power. The pages of 20th-century history are rife with the terrible misdeeds of those who were raised without fathers, or with abusive or ineffectual fathers: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and many others of lesser infamy.

Among those who have ascended from broken homes to positions of political power in our own nation, there is a distinctive Pathology of the Left associated with their insatiable quest for approval and power, and their resulting advocacy for a platform of socialist statism upon which to build their throne. The most notable examples in recent history are Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy and, of course, Barack Hussein Obama, who is a textbook case study of narcissism. The political, social, cultural and economic damage that these men have done in their warped search for power is considerable.

There isn’t much we can do for those whose sense of self has been irrevocably imprinted by the lack of a functional father, but there is plenty we can do to ensure the next generation is burdened with fewer of them.

If Essential Liberty is ever to be restored, then the place to start is within our families, and most particularly with fathers.

Our Founding Fathers understood that the Republic depends upon the proper establishment and conduct of the family. James Wilson wrote, “[T]hat important and respectable, though small and sometimes neglected establishment, which is denominated a family … it is that seminary, on which the commonwealth … must ultimately depend. … It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently, and according to their circumstances; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness.”

That duty begins with fathers.

Effective fathering requires real men, and there are plenty of them out there. But sometimes even the most well-intentioned fathers need some help. For that reason, I want to share with you, our Patriot readers, one of the best resources available for dads.

Tony Dungy, the former professional football player who coached the Indianapolis Colts to their 2007 Super Bowl victory, has devoted much of his post-football years to coaching fathers.

Tony Dungy

“In football,” Dungy says, “you win with fundamentals. In fatherhood, it’s the same way. An NFL player becomes an All-Pro by relentlessly focusing on the fundamentals and executing them with sheer determination. The same is true to become an All Pro Dad.”

Dungy backs the All Pro Dad fatherhood mentoring organization headed by Mark Merrill. They produce an outstanding resource, a daily e-mail for Dads called the “Play of the Day.” If you’re a father of young children, I highly recommend you click here for this great resource, and spread the word to other fathers. It’s a quick read, and I guarantee fathers will find something in every edition that will improve their relationships with their children.

Just today, All Pro Dad offered “Ten Things You Should Ask From Your Kids For Father’s Day.”

Patriot fathers, if you want to extend the Legacy of Liberty to the next generation, start in your own home.

On this Father’s Day, let us pay tribute to the irreplaceable and inseparable institutions of marriage and fatherhood – and the importance of a father’s love, discipline, provision and protection for his family. Every day of the year, let those of us who are fathers encourage other fathers to be accountable for their marriages and children. Let us seek to mentor the fatherless by volunteering leadership through our places of worship, youth groups, scouting, coaching, tutoring, or working through inner-city ministries with high-risk kids, to name just a few.

Above all, the greatest inheritance I hope to leave my children is not material, but spiritual. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)

In the words of the Father of our Nation, George Washington, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” (1790)

On behalf of your Patriot Staff, I wish you a rewarding and reflective Father’s Day.

(For additional resources on fatherhood and parenting, visit First Things First, an outstanding organization under the leadership of my friend Julie Baumgardner. There are other very good national fathering resources at the National Center for Fathering and the National Fatherhood Initiative. For additional faith and family recourses, visit James Dobson’s great resources and my colleague Jim Lee’s Living Free Ministries.)

View all comments

39 Comments

Don in Oregon City, OR said:

I lost my Father (and Mother) when I was 11, but those few short years I had with him left an indelible impression of the requirement for hard work, thrift, and raising children in the way they should go. It is my greatest hope that I have passed on at least some of his heritage to my daughters and grand children.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Scott in Fredericksburg, VA replied:

I too had an indelible impression left on me when my father and mother left their four children, me being the eldest at 9 years of age. I made it my life's work to never put my children through a foster system (though I'm thankful for those who became our parents that didn't have to), to never be like my father, and to teach my children commitment and responsibility. Well done to all who have stood up to their responsibilities and Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Morning Glory in Missouri replied:

Scott.........thank you for recognizing your foster parents. My son-in-law and daughter are foster parents; and I have to say that I've seen them love and care for their foster "babies" much more than the biological parents ever did! Sad....................

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Oathkeeper Scott in Texas said:

We are reaping what has been sown by 40+ years of 'Great Society' reforms which have all but destroyed the black family and done huge damage to the white and others. Big government undermines the family and engenders a sick 'family' type dependency on itself, perpetuating the toxic cycle (see Sweden, Russia, etc.) and growing more useful idiot slaves.

Mark Steyn writes about the 'suicide death cult' that is the new western 'progressive' culture. Diminishing the traditional family is one of its core goals.

Only a virtuous people are capable being and staying free. Virtuous families produce independent, responsible, free-thinking citizens. The left couldn't be more threatened by that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Lisa in MD said:

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. I know that my dad has really always been there for me and in fact I have taken him into my home he will be 96 this Sept and cannot live on his own. We do now and then butt heads still today, but it is all in good fun.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Bob in ME replied:

Your a very good daughter to have your Dad in your home. It says a lot about what kind of father you have blessed to have, lucky us.

Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 7:49 AM

Jack Green in Napolaon Ohio said:

Mark: : : The day my daughter was born aboout 3PM in the afternoon I came out of the hospital and saw all the flags flying and said they were put up to celegrate my daughters birth- - - then I found out it was June 14th flag day
Sincerely jackgreen_99@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Jeri L in Boston, MA said:

I am 60 years old and still miss the presence of "my Daddy". He would have been 94 this June 18 and a member of the greatest generation. Daddies and the daughters is a tie the binds forever.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Alton Womack in Central Florida said:

I born during the day, but not yesterday. As much as I tried as a Patriot, history will not be kind to our generation. As much as we have collectively tried, another element out there is pulling in the opposite direction and their gimme stuff, and lazy mentality is a magnetic pull that is hard to combat, Education in many cases is a joke. And what do we tell them at Commencement, instead of the truth most of speakers, tried to gloss over their own inadequate teaching, when they should be telling them, it is tough world out there. But we do what we can, when we can and know what some of us did was good.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Frank in Texas said:

Happy 237h birhday, U.S. Army!

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Frank in Texas replied:

Bad spelling on my part.

Happy 237th birthday, U.S. Army!

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:35 PM

gary in west virginia said:

great writing enjoyed it very much

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Richard Tonge in Utah said:

Mr. Alexander:

Thank you for the Fathers Day comments. Made me almost cry in memory of my father.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Bud in Venice, FL said:

The greatest compliment any man can receive is to be called FATHER.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Paul Brockman in Virginia Beach, VA said:

Mark, It seems that we've grown up in parallel lives. My father was also a Navy fighter pilot (WWII/Korea) though without the Ivy League background. So much of what you said about your father (including the "Class of '44" sidebar) could be said about my dad and our relationship. Among the values he instilled in me was service: to my family, to my community, to my country. I'll admit that the Boy Scouts helped some with this, but Dad and Grandpa (also a Naval officer) played the major roles. He, too, would be 88 years old had he not gone on to his reward some ten years ago.
Thanks for helping revive these pleasant memories of him.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Mrs. Jo Dermody in Little Meadows, PA 18830 said:

My husband started out his adult life becoming a Marine Corps pilot.
He flew two tours over Vietnam. He had four children. He died five years
ago of pancreatic cancer.
His four children miss him so much. The are all adults and yet they so
wish they could pick up the phone and say "Pop, I am taking this or that
apart, and I need some help."
He played all sports with them. Was a good Catholic father. He
so loved the military that three of his four children joined the military,
one a Marine and two Navy.
He is so missed. He was a hands on dad from from the time they
kids were born. One other wonderful attribute was he was a good
listener. Semper Fi
I did love the above column.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:25 PM

Jack in Fort Wayne, IN said:

This is a great tribute to the full concept of Father, and beautifully written. I would only add that I have always admired Tony Dungy, who from personal experience knows both the joy and the pain of being a Father. He has done so much for so many in need, which goes well beyond his success as an NFL coach. Thanks for recognizing him in this way, and Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Morning Glory in Missouri said:

The relationship that I have with my natural father made it very easy for me to establish a relationship with my heavenly father at a very young age. I used to tell my school peers that my daddy was strong enough to pick up a truck! Not just any truck--a SEMI-truck! Later in life, my eyes opened to view his inward strength. I realized that I wanted to marry someone just like my dad...........and I did. Forty years later, there are two men in my life--my dad and my husband. They are my rocks, my safe harbors, my encouragers, and my heroes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:50 PM

WTD in AZ replied:

With all the really gross examples constantly in our face of bad fathers, surrogate live-in boyfriends, and dysfunctional families, what a joy to read your words. Blessed are those families where the father follows God's plan for its loving leadership.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 9:46 PM

Dioneikes in Colorado said:

My Father gave me my love of country and of liberty. He taught me right from wrong and when I was wrong kicked my ass. I grew up to be a productive member of society and carry my own weight, thanks to the teachings of my parents. I spent 20 years on Active Duty in defense of this country because I felt it was something you owed this Nation for the blessings of Freedom. My Dad fought in WW2 and in Vietnam, truely a member of a great generation, but his wasn't the "Greatest Generation". The Greatest Generation belongs to the Founders of this Country. They took on the mightiest Army in the World at the time, and set up a government never before tried that was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the idea of individual sovereignty and self determination. My Father's generation went to war to preserve those ideals, just as I served to preserve them. Now it looks like we might go to war here in our own country if Obamunism is re-elected. Its okay though as I'll be fighting for something most precious ... liberty and freedom from government tyranny.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:53 PM