The Enduring Power Of A Father’s Advice

A father’s advice and example can be powerful. Here are examples from the world and our own company:

Don’t hate, don’t hide, don’t be a victim.

Someone hateful burned a cross in the front yard of the home across the street from Jonathan Harmon in 1979—when he was 14. Harmon, his family and those neighbors were about the only blacks in their overwhelmingly white, middle class hometown.  Intriguingly, the values that Harmon learned from his father’s response to this terrifying event took him far in life, as he recently explained in the Wall Street Journal.

“Don’t hate, don’t hide, don’t be a victim,” his father instructed. His dad practiced what he preached too—including being civil to the person they believed to be responsible for the hate crime, who also lived in their town, for many years afterwards.

Harmon graduated from West Point and fought in Operation Desert Storm, where he learned empathy for police and military, before finding his way into a high-profile law career.  He now serves as Chairman of an international firm, McGuireWoods. So, there was great power in his father’s advice and example.

You can do anything.  Believe in yourself.  Help and serve others. All people are equal.

Harmon’s father reminds me of the advice and example that mine provided too. My father, Richard Blankenbaker, has been dead more than 30 years, but his words, values and example continue to influence my life and work as a publisher trying to make a difference for as many good people and communities as possible.
















Dad owned grocery stores in Indianapolis, in integrated or primarily black neighborhoods. He grew up dirt poor—with no electricity or plumbing in his southern Indiana home, until he put it in as a teenager. He believed strongly that every person deserved to be treated well and with dignity—including women and people of color. Dad paid forward the blessings of his then successful business and a large, healthy family by living, working and serving in diverse communities and actively promoting better opportunities for nonwhites and females. My neighborhood, schools, church, extracurricular activities and friends were truly integrated. As a white, I was in a very small minority at Shortridge High School. Our group believed that we modeled a post discrimination world in development.  How naïve we were!

Dad also served as the Indianapolis Public Safety Director, overseeing the police and other city public services.  He fostered mutual admiration between police and community in a manner that seems to long lost now.

My father’s stores didn’t survive the onset of the big box era, just as a truly colorblind society didn’t unfold and public trust in police has evaporated.  But I still hold tight to my dad’s beliefs in the goodness of people and the importance of civic service that fosters strong, equitable communities.

Perhaps my best gift from my father though were the following words that he repeated so often, they are burned into my soul:

“You can do anything.  Believe in yourself.  Help and serve others. All people are equal.”

My father died rich in relationships and admiration from others, but not wealthy in the traditional sense. My publishing goal is to honor his legacy and grow a more enduring business too. Yes, we can do good and do well.  In fact, in these disquieting times, it’s more important than ever to do so.

I’m honored to share my publishing journey with talented staff with big hearts and great goals too.  Their stories also prove the power of a good father’s words and example.

Leah Bronson:

“My Dad taught me how to be very creative with my words, negotiate, close a deal and not take no for an answer.  He taught me how to ‘count my pennies’ and that if you work hard, you get to play hard….so work hard.

He also told me that if I’m going to crack jokes, be SURE that people laugh at them. (there was a few choice words I left out of that statement, but you get the gist).

Maeve Walsh:

My father and father to seven kids, was an extremely hard worker. He worked a 9-5 job everyday and then came home and spent hours working in the garden, growing vegetables, tending to everything.   Like many of his generation he knew how to build things and also was a great carpenter.  He even knew how to sew and repair the machine when it broke down.  He was kind and honest and a great father.  I think I learned all of the above from him, (unfortunately not the carpentry).  I miss him.

Lesley Cesare:

My dad was born in Costa Rica in 1919. He died at 92 and would’ve been 101 in April!

Leading by example, he taught me to not complain. As far back as I can remember, anytime I asked how he was, he would always respond “no complaints“. I try to remember that.

Sabrina Tuton-Filson:

My father taught me to listen — whether or not I (initially) agree with the person or what they are saying. It takes little effort to be open minded and yet it makes a huge difference in the way we exist in the world. Exposing ourselves to new/different points of view affords us more opportunities to know better, do better, be better.

So grateful for him.

Sharon Coleman:

My father was recognized in WW2 for his bravery.  He was a very strong, kind and generous man.  Also, he was sought after for his negotiation/mediation skills well into his 80’s.

He taught me to be kind and respectful of others.  I miss him everyday … especially this week.

Sharon Krone:

My dad was first generation Irish in upstate NY. He suffered daily for his religious (Protestant) background by classmates and neighbors. He taught me to have faith in a good, forgiving and loving God despite what we may encounter.

Alyssa Armada:

My dad came to America from the Philippines at age 13 from a family of 8. Everything that he has accomplished has come through hard-work, determination, and compassion. He raised my sister and me on these 3 lessons:

  1. Put 100% effort into everything you do.
  2. Have integrity and respect for others.
  3. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

He is my role model, best friend, and a #girldad.

Julie Eldring:

My father taught me SO many things!  He embodied “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” He taught me to work hard, make myself useful and always do things efficiently.

He was a talented carpenter and builder and was an original recycler, he would save everything and found ways to reuse all materials.  There was rarely something he couldn’t fix or make.  Miss him so much.

Jennifer Woolford:

I had the most amazing dad  my very best friend in the world!

He was known as Big George and was proud of his Catalan heritage.

He owned and ran a swimsuit company and I grew up going to his office with him any day that I wasn’t in school or at our summer home. I would literally watch him work … selecting fabrics, styles and organizing shows and events, sales meetings with the companies I loved to shop at…. so much fun!

He showed me that as long as you have passion for the business, a strong character, a good sense of humor, show kindness and concern for others and get the job done…. you will succeed.

His biggest advice:  Always try your very best, be honest and EVER reliable.

“People remember reliable”

He was colorful, funny, smart, musical and as warm as they come.

Natasha Romanoff:

My father taught me generosity – he is one of the most giving people I know. He gladly gives his time, energy, and resources without expectations. He really has an open heart and I’m so grateful to have had his influence growing up.

Alex French:

My father thought at one point, that he wanted to be a Minister. I think it guided a lot of who he was. He taught me to always be kind and put the other person first.

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