I’ve been writing about the law for a number of months now. But today – March 25 – I am requesting a point of personal privilege as I want to write about my father. My father is very much on my mind today as today is his 103 birthday.
My father died at the age of 83 – but that rd seems irrelevant to me today. He’s alive in my mind and he is present daily in my spirit. I’m basically a trial attorney. Whether in people’s minds I am good or bad at what I do, I am largely what I am because of my father’s influence. If you think I’m good at what I do, you can thank my father. If you think I’m horrible, then blame Harry. He’s at fault, not me. At a very early age, my father said – rather loudly: “There are no quitters in this family!” I took this rather literally and while this admonition generally served me well, there was a time when it didn’t.
I was a basketball player growing up. Playing basketball for Bishop Bradley High School, I had a game where I passed out. That’s the bad news. The good news is I woke up and I played the next game. Again, I passed out. The problem was mononucleosis. My father asked me why I kept playing when I was sick or ill. I told him “you told me there were no quitters in the family and I didn’t want to quit.” I guess I had a problem as I leaned on everything my father told me. I was wise to do so because almost every time my father spoke to me – he was right. My father had many favorite sayings.
Let me share two of them with you: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!” and “A badge can get very heavy. Not everyone can carry a badge!” When my father was saying these things, he was likely speaking of the police. My father was in the trucking business. In my father’s day, there was a natural tension between truckers and police officers. It was a little like the Ole West. A trucker straddled the line with one foot on one side of the law and other foot firmly on the remaining side. My father was simply pointing out that when people have authority – a lot of authority – it can very often be abused. He was simply recognizing that some people can’t handle authority very well. My father loved a good argument. He would argue about anything and would do so for the pure joy of arguing. When the argument was over, he would generally say: “Let’s get a cup of coffee” or “Let’s get a donut.” For him, the argument was sport. He valued his rival. He loved anyone who would take the other side of a debate and argue passionately.
My father gave me many gifts. I’ve mentioned three of them. He taught me never to give up and never to quit. Success is around the corner. Keep moving forward. He taught me to have a healthy weariness of authority. I have it in spades. I can completely admire the good work a police officer does but I am always on the lookout for the officer who can’t carry the badge. They are out there and I see them on a weekly basis. I enjoy opposing those officers. Finally, like my father, I like the court room and every other room where there is a debate. I admire those who come to the debate prepared and I think less of those who don’t come ready to do battle. Bob Keeshan – known as Captain Kangaroo – wrote the following: “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” With apologies to my father for quoting The Captain, I thank my father for every bit of wisdom he gave me. Happy birthday, dad