Raising the Next Generation
About the Guest
According to William Bennett, the Latin term for father is "pater," which means "the one who shows up and takes responsibility." Bennett reflects on the legacy he'd like to leave behind and coaches new dads on the significant role they've been assigned.
William BennettWilliam J. Bennett is one of America’s most important, influential and respected voices on cultural, political, and education issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree (J.D.) from Harvard. He is the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute. He is a Senior Advisor to Project Lead The Way, one of the nation’s leading providers of training and curriculum to improve STEM educa...more
According to William Bennett, the Latin term for father is “pater,” which means “the one who shows up and takes responsibility.”
Raising the Next Generation
Bill: There are two Latin words for father. One is genitor, the biological act of father—we do not have to teach them much about that. They can get that in the movies; they can get that in school. The other one is pater. Pater is the one who takes responsibility. It’s that taking up of responsibility—that’s the difference. That’s what we’re not teaching the boys.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re joined by the former Secretary of Education, Dr. William Bennett, today to talk about how we can train young men to assume responsibility and to become godly men. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We are having quite a lively and provocative conversation this week with the former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett, who has just written a new book called The Book of Man. He’s helping us think through, not only what it means to be a man, but how we can inspire these kinds of masculine virtues in the hearts of younger men.
Dennis: That’s right; and Bill, I want to welcome you back to FamilyLife Today.
Bill: Glad to be here.
Dennis: I’m going to turn you into a coach. What would you, as a coach—in almost “a locker room before the game” setting—what would you say to a young man who is about to take responsibility on for being a husband, a father, and being a man in this culture?
Bill: Great! I had this just the other night. I flew with a Marine Major, 37 years old, who on seven tours of duty—he’s commanded men in battle. He’s sitting there reading this manual for dads—sweaty and scared to death. You know?
I said, “Look. It’s a great journey. Trust your instincts, talk to your wife, talk to other men whom you admire—get their opinion. I still do this.”
You know, what I found out in Washington—being in Washington this long—Robert Lewis Stevenson talks about the great men. “The great men,” he says, “have about them a certain geniality, a certain regular-guy quality,” like Ronald Reagan had. It’s the second-raters who are all puffed-up about themselves; you know?
He said, “The other thing is the great ones still ask questions.” Keep asking. Ask these men, “What do you do when this happens? What do you do when your kid asks you to lie for him? What do you do when you’re in a situation like this?
Do you ever keep a secret with your son from your wife—even about a trivial thing?” I mean, there are these little things that bother us; and they bother us as young fathers.
I think, basically, I told this guy. I said, “Read all you want. Talk to people,” but I said, “Your instincts, my guess, are pretty good. You love this child, and you want the best for this child. I would trust my instincts but verify, verify—check the Bible, check your friends, check your wife.” I did a few unauthorized things with the boys, you know, without telling Mrs. Bennett.
Dennis: We’ll not ask what those were at this point on the program.
Bill: Oh, no. They weren’t like that. It was just like, “You went where in the winter without a hat?” You know, it’s that sort of thing.
Dennis: Oh, that kind of thing. You mentioned, “verify,” by testing the Bible and going back to an authority that is something above you. Comment on a man’s relationship with God and why that personal relationship with Him is of ultimate importance if he’s going to be the man God created him to be.
Bill: Because a child—more than anything else—male or female, is a moral and spiritual being. My biggest complaint about a lot of what goes on in the schools—a lot of the public schools—is that they don’t treat children as if they were moral and spiritual beings—treat them as if they are cattle in heat or something. They are made in God’s image. We either believe that or we do not. If we do, then, we will treat them as such and talk to them as such.
You know the story of Robert E. Lee—what he does here is—reminds them who they are—that they are moral beings, and they have failed—not in a big way, but enough of a way to make themselves embarrassed.
Somebody asked me the other day, “Are some of our kids so morally stunted that they are not capable of moral embarrassment?” It’s possible they are because we have so shrouded and put to the side the moral and spiritual dimension.
One section of the book is men in prayer and reflection. There are several essays in here about starting the day with the Creator, starting the day with Christ, the first conversation you have. One of the reflections about one of the ministers here is, “If I don’t get to talk to the Lord before eleven, everything is wrong. I’ve got to talk to Him first. That’s got to be my first conversation.”
Now, I come out of a different tradition; but one thing that I have insisted in my own life is to pray every day—to make it a point to pray every day. Look, if we give up, somehow, the notion that they are moral and spiritual beings—then, the whole explorer without a map, the whole guidance—the game is not worth a candle. We’re just walking around as a bunch of random collection of atoms.
The one thing you do know is that father who you’re worried about—whether he’ll do the right thing—or he’s worried about—he knows he’s got something special here.
He knows this just isn’t just a few pounds of clay—that there is something else going on. You keep remembering that that is a moral and spiritual being, and you’re not going to make that many mistakes.
Dennis: I think our children get their perspective and first knowledge of who God is from their dads. That’s not that the moms don’t teach them about God and who He is, I believe they do; but I think there is something imbued by the Creator, in a man uniquely, that they get their first concept of, “Who is our Father who art in Heaven?”—their first glimpse of who He is.
Granted, it can’t be an accurate glimpse because who can be God except God; but the office of being a man, the responsibility of being a man, is a great privilege, a great honor—but it is a responsibility. My encouragement to men who—
Dennis: —look in the mirror and go, “Man, I’m not there.”
Bill: “I’m not sure I’m up to this.”
Dennis: Yes. You need to hang with men, as you’ve exhorted them to, who will call them up. You need to read good books, and you need—even if this book—this book has got 500 pages. I brought a book to give you, Bill; but I’d have to give you five of my books to make this as big as yours.
These things—these are great books because you can read them for a long, long time; but this is good because it’s broken into a bunch of snapshots that men can read in three to five minutes, and you can just graze your way through this.
Bob: You didn’t intend, necessarily, that this would simply be a book that fathers would read to sons. You want men to read this as adult men; right?
Bill: I do, and I want women to read it so that women will know what they’re looking for as well. I want grandmas, aunts, uncles, and everybody to read—anybody who knows a boy and wants to help them become a man ought to take a look at the book.
Dennis: I know you wrote this for 50 percent of the human race; but I’m going to tell you something, “When men are men, the other half of the human race really benefits.”
Bill: You know, this is so important and profound. I sent a member of my staff—by the way, the way I hire people to help me on these books—I hired six people, all unemployed graduate students. You know, there is a reason to study the classics; and that’s so you can help somebody write a book. (Laughter) I’d say they helped me find the sources to all the great old stuff.
I sent one of these young people up to a conference on men and women—Salon Magazine and some others were doing—a big, liberal gathering in New York City, where the theme was, “What’s Happened to Men?” I thought there would be champagne corks. The women—for the first time—graduating class of women, this year of college, exceed men in achievement, education, ambition, and almost everything else.
I have talked to Ivy League directors of admissions who have told me, “If you did it just by the scores, it’d be 80 percent women.” You know, we said, “You go, girl,” and they went.
The feminist thing and all sorts of terrible things happened—some great things happened, too, and girls were given great opportunities. That’s fine; but some craziness was said, too, like, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
Dennis: Right. Right.
Bill: You know, at this meeting in New York, with all these liberals, feminists and what not, they were not celebrating. It’s what you just said, “When the men aren’t up to it, it’s not good for the men, it’s not good for the women either,” because the woman wants that strong arm of man. She wants a man she can look across at and up to for some protection and some guidance. Nobody wins when men don’t do their job; nobody wins. The men don’t win, the women don’t win, and the kids sure don’t win.
Dennis: You outline over 30 profiles of great men, some known, some lesser known. If you were going to have a fantasy dinner with any three to four leaders or great men from history--
--who would be the three or four men that you’d love to sit around the table and just have a lengthy evening conversation with?
Bill: Well, there is one who is living. The only one—you know the great thing—I was a scholarship student, growing up in Brooklyn, New York; and I ended up in the Cabinet of the United States. You know, what a country, huh?! What a country! I got to meet everybody in the world I wanted to meet—
Bill: —except Lech Walesa. You know, the hero of the Polish Solidarity Movement? At the Reagan funeral at the National Cathedral, it was an unbelievable event. Of course, as you might imagine, I’m staring. I see the back of the head. Why do I recognize the back of the head?—because it’s the back of Gorbachev’s head, Margaret Thatcher. I mean it was—you wanted to keep your mind on what was going on, but the people who were there—it was extraordinary.
When I got home, we put on C-SPAN, watched the ceremony. Lech Walesa was three people to my right.
I was looking here, I was looking there, and he was three people to my right. Anyway, let me just say, because of the intercession of, I think, God’s grace, I got this opportunity.
I mean, I tell this story—it’s true. They filled all the positions in the Reagan Administration. Then, they had to fill these last two—Chairman for National Endowment for the Arts, which best goes unmentioned, but they do—then, the Chairman of National Endowment for the Humanities. So, they needed a professor of the humanities to do this for Ronald Reagan.
They began a nationwide search to find a professor of the humanities who had voted for Ronald Reagan. There were only about three of us in the universities (and there aren’t a lot), and I was the number two choice. I know it was the intercession of men—occasionally, women, but mostly men—who took the time to put my name forward because they thought I was a good guy and that I’d do a decent job. “Give him a chance.”
I was talking to one of your staff members on the way over about his son, whom I asked.
He said he was going to pull him out of school, and we are going to meet him because he’s not sure about college. I wasn’t sure about college. Every time I hear now about a young man who is not sure about college, I say, “Let me in on this. Let me advise you on this. I know this. I want to pass on the break that I got.”
Bob: You have arranged The Book of Man into subjects—into categories that you feel are the essential categories that men need to be schooled in. As I read through it, I thought, “This is right.” Then, I thought, “Some women are likely to say, ‘Now, wait, women need to know about hard work, too; and women need to know about these things, too.’” Why is this The Book of Man? What makes these uniquely masculine?
Bill: The virtues aren’t uniquely masculine. The reason it is The Book of Man is “A”—my confidence. I think I know men. The other thing is we have a man-problem. We have a serious man-problem.
We have a man-deficit problem; and if you don’t believe this man, listen to the women.
When I hear a young woman say to me—a woman of great accomplishment and beauty—“I want to get married. I want to have children. I think this is the best I can do. I’m going to settle for this.” That is a terrible thing to say. We need to work on this, and we have let it drift.
I don’t know what it is about men, and women, and their nature—you guys may know better than I—but when the things that the Founders thought were so critical, the virtues they thought were so critical—three principally—work, marriage, and faith. When that light gets dimmer, when those lights get dimmer, the men fall apart much faster than the women. The Founders were insistent on these founding virtues, if you will; and we’ve kind of lost sight of them.
I mean, just look at the numbers.
1970: 80 percent of men between 25 and 30 were married—1970. Today, it’s 40 percent. I mean, that’s half. It’s a huge number. If you ask women in their 20’s, they’d say, “I’m not going to marry these guys. They’re not grown up enough yet.”
Bill: Sports guy was reviewing this book, and you guys know me and my views. This liberal guy in a Philadelphia paper said, “I don’t agree with Bill Bennett on anything, but I think he’s got this one right.” He said, “If 60 is the new 40, 25 may be the new 13.”
Get out of the house, get a job, get responsibility, maybe even get married, raise children—start some of that fearful stuff—that stuff that really keeps you up at night, but that makes you grow into a man.
Dennis: Who taught you what it was like to be a husband—the disciplines of nourishing, cherishing, respecting, caring for, serving a woman?
I mean, you shared earlier about you grew up in a family where your mom was married five times. You saw men come and go. They didn’t know how to care for a woman, clearly. How’d you learn it? Who taught you?
Bill: My mother some, my grandmother some, my brother some. In marriage—my wife. Now, Elayne’s theory—she’s a different kind of girl. She’s an old-fashioned girl. She said, “You’re not much use here, first few years, frankly.” (Laughter)
Dennis: Did she say this early on? (Laughter)
Bill: Yes. “You do what you need to do. You’re going to be called on later when they’re big, when they’re mouthy, and when”—she said, “I will take care of this.” As a result, she did; and I got jealous because they were getting all the attention.
She said, “Your main job is to teach these boys how to treat a woman. They will learn from you how to talk to women. I don’t care if you change diapers. I don’t care if you read them stories.”
People say, “It must have been great to have the author of The Book of Virtues reading the stories.”
I never read a one—never read a one. I don’t do retail! I write books. (Laughter) I mean, this was almost—it’s like they said, “Where did you decide to send your kids to school?” I said, “I was Secretary of Education. I was working on the country. I didn’t make that decision. No, that’s Mrs. Bennett’s. That’s important work.”
It is the work of the family, but she meant what she said. Later on, she said, “Now, they need you; and you step in”—I was very active.
I did something—I don’t know if you all did—I did father/son trips. I took each boy on a series of trips by himself, not just the group, but just the one kid. We had great adventures, great conversations.
Bob: You made a statement, and I’ve quoted it many times. One of your books—you said, “I’ve worked for Presidents. I’ve been in a variety of disciplines. I’ve served in education. As I look at the pathologies of the culture, whether it’s crime, or education issues, or drugs,” you said, “it can all be traced back to the disintegration of the American family.”
Can we say that, when you go back to the family, the man is the one who’s standing there who ought to be laying the foundation and building on that?
Bill: Sure. Thanks for noticing. I love what Michael Novak says, “The family is the first, best, and original Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.”
Bill: I had this unusual circumstance of being the Secretary of Education and then being the first drug tsar. The unfortunate thing was there was a lot of overlap between those two jobs. What I said was—and I said it over and over again, and I had it confirmed over and over because I got out from behind the desk. I went out. I was at schools, and I went to crack houses—I said, “Give me better churches, better schools, and most of all, better families; and I will give you back 85 percent of the pathology of American life.”
The drug thing, you see an extreme. I remember I talked to a judge in Detroit. He said, “I’m where it ends. I sentence these guys, and I say, ‘Young man, didn’t anybody ever teach you the difference between right and wrong?’”
He said, “They look me in the eye, and they say, ‘No, sir.’” He said, “I believe them. I don’t believe anybody ever took this kid and taught him the difference between right and wrong.” He’s absolutely right.
You go and you interview people. We arrested a lot of people. I interviewed a lot of people, talked to a lot of people. Nobody raised them. Nobody said anything about any of this stuff.
The funny thing is, if anybody had just tried, they might have had success because I do think—and I don’t think—I know they are moral and spiritual beings. If you talk to them as if they are, you can lift them up and make a better thing out of them; but if you talk to them as if they are dummies, as if they are in heat, if they are just messed-up little creatures—
George Herbert Walker Bush met a kid at a drug treatment center. He called me up. He was so moved after the experience. He said, “Well, what are your plans when you get out?” He said, “Well, I’m going to get out. I hope I can live like three or four more years.” He said, “This kid was 18. What is his time perspective?”
I said, “That’s what he’s learned in those streets.” He said, “Boy, this is a problem.” I said, “Yes, sir.”
Dennis: Bill, I was just listening to you and just thinking about your book and what you’ve done here—really, how you’re calling men up, calling them to the office, to the nobility of true, honorable manhood.
I was thinking about a scene in the Old Testament where David was about to die. He called his son, Solomon, in to kind of crown him king; but he said this, he says, “I’m about to go the way of all the earth, be strong and show yourself a man.” He basically said, “Be the man, son. Step up and be a man. Don’t be a boy. Don’t be a young man. Be a man.”
I just personally want to thank you for, not only The Book of Virtues, and calling all of us up to a higher standard there, but this book for men—because, personally (and Bob knows this), this is one of the passions of my heart, as well, and Bob, too.
If we do not help men today excel and know what it means to be God’s man for the moment in the hour, evil will win the day.
Dennis: It will overtake us, and I want to thank you for your work here. I just want to encourage men who aren’t even readers, “Get the book. Get in The Book of Man because it will get in you. Also, get in the Book, the Bible. It’ll make you a man as well.” Thanks for being on the broadcast—
Bill: Thank you.
Dennis: —and I hope that you’ll come back.
Dennis: I’m looking forward to your next treatise. I’d—you know this—
Bill: I’m done, man. I’m spent. (Laughter)
Dennis: These are great door stops. I mean these—
Bob: We’ve got virtues and men. What’s the—
Bill: You guys, I knew you were going to do that because you giveth and you taketh away. A woman wrote me and she said, “I love The Book of Virtues. When they’re bad, I spank them with that, and they can feel it. That’s 700 pages!” (Laughter) You guys, thank you very much.
Bob: We’ve got copies of The Book of Man in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order online at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s a great book full of stories and poems--things you can read to your sons as they’re growing up. It wouldn’t hurt those of us who are older men to read a few of these things too.
Again go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of The Book of Man by Dr. Bill Bennett. Or call 1-800-FLToday to place your order. 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-”F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY”.
By the way we’re hoping to rally FamilyLife Today listeners, those of you who are guys listening to FamilyLife Today, we’re hoping to rally you to get together with some other guys this summer and take a day or a day and a half or two days and have a Stepping Up® event.
Dr. Bill Bennett is one of the contributors to the Stepping Up video event along with guys like Tony Dungy and Matt Chandler and Crawford Loritts and Dennis Rainey and Voddie Baucham and Robert Lewis--there are just a bunch of guys who were a part of putting this whole thing together.
The video event is designed so that you can have a day at your church and in the morning you can go through one of the session and in the afternoon go through another session and then later in the summer do the whole thing again. We’ll send you the event kit that has the DVDs and a workbook and a copy of Dennis’s book, we’ll send that to you free if you’ll order ten manuals and take at least ten guys through this series over the course of the summer.
I just did this recently with a group of guys from our church and it was a great weekend. We got away to a nearby retreat center and just had a good time going through this material. Find out more about how you can get the video event kit for free as long as you order ten manuals to take guys through it.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. You can order online or you can order by calling 1-800-”F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY”.
Quickly let me say a word of thanks to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible, you know who you are. It’s those of you who have contributed in the past to this ministry.
We’re listener supported. Without your financial support we couldn’t do all that we do. So we’re grateful for the partnership we share with you. If you’ve never made a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, how about making today the first day you do that?
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com it’s easy to donate online or call 1-800-FLToday. It’s also easy to donate by phone. If you’d like to do it the more traditional way just mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas, our zip code is 72223.
Now tomorrow we’re going to reflect more on what it means to be a man, in particular a godly man. We’ll hear some thoughts on that from Crawford Lorrits who is also part of the Stepping Up video event, in fact we’ll hear from the event from Crawford tomorrow. So I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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