MAY 3, 2011 12:52AM

A Lesson Learned at My Father's Knee

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Watching the crowds in front of the White House on television last night, listening to their chants of "USA! USA!," I couldn't help but remember something that happened once when I was a kid of maybe 11 or 12. I was out walking with my Dad, when some drunk guy came up to my Dad looking for trouble. I don't even remember the details of what the guy was after, but he was getting increasingly belligerent and aggressive. Dad gave the guy several warnings to back off, but the guy grew more and more threatening, eventually grabbing the collar of Dad's shirt and drawing back his fist. At that point, Dad hauled off and, with a single punch, knocked him out cold.

Now, this was a side of my father I had never seen, and as a 12 year old boy, it seemed like pretty hot stuff.  I mean, what twelve year-old boy doesn't want to see his Dad as a tough guy, right?  So, when we got home, I was excitedly relaying the story to my siblings, when Dad happened to overhear me. His response was not what I expected.  With some consternation in his voice, he said something to the effect of, "Look, I really wish you hadn't witnessed that at all, but since you did, let me be very clear about something: you should always try to avoid fighting whenever possible; but sometimes, such as today, you find yourself in a situation where you don't have much of a choice. In that case, you do what you have to do. But it isn't something you should take pride in, and under no circumstance should it ever become an occasion to gloat!"

Dad, a WWII vet, taught me a very powerful lesson that day -- a lesson as applicable to situations we, as a nation, find ourselves in as it is to interpersonal conflicts, and one I wish more Americans would learn.




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