A good friend, the father of a recent high school graduate, spent Father’s Day sending his daughter off to the Army. She had decided early in her senior year that she wanted to enlist. It was a bittersweet moment as they hugged goodbye and he watched his only child board a bus bound for boot camp. My brother-in-law bonded with his teenage daughter on Sunday while watching France pummel Honduras 3-0 during the World Cup. Well, I was informed that they actually watched the match on two separate televisions…but they were under the same roof and they watched at the same time. I think that could still count as a bonding moment. Sometimes that’s as good as it gets with teenage girls. My nephew who has four girls all under the age of seven just rested and watched his favorite movies all day. While another friend spent Father’s Day with his adult daughter hanging out “not doing much, but doing it well,” he informed me via text message.
The day before Father’s Day I was given the unique opportunity to join my father as a platform guest at the CSU San Bernardino College of Arts & Letters Commencement Ceremony. He was awarded an honorary doctorate and I was asked to assist in the presentation of the doctoral hood and medallion and then read his remarks to the three thousand attendees. The CSU Board of Trustees in the name of the California State University awards the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to recipients who have demonstrated excellence in areas that benefit humanity and deserve to be recognized and honored for their consistent and outstanding work. California State University awarded its first honorary degree to then-President John F. Kennedy in June 1963, and since that time, the 23 CSU campuses have awarded honorary degrees to 457 distinguished individuals. My dad is now among that elite group.
This was a tremendous accomplishment for my father, as well as a momentous occasion for our entire family. Many people are not aware that my father grew-up sharecropping in rural North Carolina where he earned $8 a day farming tobacco and 4 cents a pound picking cotton. When he arrived in California at age 17 he had only $75 in his wallet and a babysitting job. Through hard work and determination he became the first African-American meter reader for Southern California Edison, enjoyed a long and successful career with Kaiser Permanente, and has published an influential newspaper that is still benefitting the community after four decades.
As I proudly spoke his words for him that day, I thought about the important role fathers play in their daughters’ lives. I once read that how a father treats his daughter will shape how she views herself. Dads don’t have to be as cool as The Cosby Show’s Dr. Cliff Huxtable or as sensitive as Mallory, Jennifer (and yes Alex P) Keaton’s dad Steven on Family Ties or as relentless and intense as Liam Neeson’s character, the retired CIA agent searching for his kidnapped daughter in the film Taken. While every father/daughter relationship is unique, all fathers simply need to do is be present, stay calm, objective, strict but kind, loving, and forgiving. Treat her well and do it consistently and you may not be awarded an honorary doctorate, but you will have earned just as significant a title, that of “really awesome dad.”