What MLK Taught Me About How to Be a Dad

“We don’t take black money.”

Those were the cruel words my father-in-law, Dr. Little, heard when he was a young man at a public golf course in 1959.

“Good,” he responded. “Because money is green.”

He left his cash on the counter, turned around, and walked out the door to go play a round of golf.

Later, he and his friends were escorted away by police for playing on a “whites only” course. Rather than exploding into a violent rage, as many others would have done, Dr. Little stayed calm and held his head high during his arrest.

That highly publicized event and his example of a dignified man were instrumental in the future of the golf course, which would be integrated a few years later.

On MLK Day, I find myself reflecting on my father-in-law’s story. I am also reminded that Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech was about being a father. It was about envisioning the future he wanted for his children, and then working to make that dream a reality.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he said.

We can all learn something from Dr. King, Dr. Little, and Championship Fathers across the globe …

More important than a man’s circumstances—his race, his socioeconomic status, his custodial or marital situation—is the way in which he handles his circumstances and envisions the future.

Do you model self-control? Do you remain calm and rational, even when others are becoming bitter … perhaps even violent? Can you hold your head high because you know you are acting like the dignified man you want your children to see?

Do you communicate to your children that the world is a good place and that the future is bright and colorful?

Or do you act as though the world is a bleak place to live?

When I think about what other fathers—black, white, Asian, Latino, poor, rich, married, divorced—have been through, I am motivated to hold the mantle just as high and to walk with dignity.

I am reminded to be mindful about what my children see through my eyes and how they envision the future.

What are your deepest longings for the world in which your children grow up? How do you want them to see you? The future?

Let this holiday be not just about civil rights, but also about Championship Fathering. Tell your children what you dream for them. (And if you feel comfortable, let us know in the comments section below!)

My dad was there for Dr. King’s speech in Washington, D.C., August 1963. Years later, I said to my dad, “I wish I could have been a grown-up back in 1963, when all that was happening with civil rights.”

My dad said, “No, Son, you’re going to be part of something even greater.”

Today, I’m convinced he was right.

 

Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.