Council Members Share Fatherhood Letters

In the spirit of Father’s Day during Men’s Health Week and in celebration of President Obama’s Fatherhood Initiative, many Council Members wrote messages to their fathers or to their own kid(s) about the impact they have had on their lives.

Dan Barber:

I'm a new father, eight weeks into it. I've discovered that (aside from changing diapers) the best connection I have to my daughter is through cooking meals for my wife.  In between breast feeds, I'm trying to do two things: feed my wife lots of plants and whole grain - right now that means vegetables like asparagus, peas, fiddlehead ferns, and grains like whole wheat breads and crackers - and making sure to keep the meals as freshly cooked as possible. I'm feeding my daughter through my wife, and I hope it's a way to get her hooked on delicious food.

Dr. Stephen McDonough:

Dear Shaun, Nicole and Nathan:   

The White House has asked me to write a message to you on the importance of quality family time and how it relates to healthy living.  President Obama has launched an initiate to encourage fathers to be actively involved with their children.

The best times of my life were when I was playing with you, going swimming, going to the park, playing Legos, building forts, building igloos to sleep outside at night in the winter or playing whiffle ball and soccer in the backyard.  As we all got older, playing shifted to outdoor adventures: picking huckleberries in Glacier National Park, camping and hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Dakota National Grasslands, camping in Denali National Park and canoeing in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota and western Ontario.  I loved going on walks with you with our beloved Golden Retriever dogs: Lacy and now Belle.  When we were younger and I was training for a marathon, you would ride your bikes while your mom and I would jog along the Missouri River.

My favorite times were the snow forts that we would build either in Grand Forks or Bismarck, North Dakota during early fall snow storms and then maintain during our long winters to use until April.  That got us outside during our 7 months of winter and kept us active.

It was easy to play with you because it was fun and fun is what childhood should be all about.  You had great imaginations and loved to be active.  No matter how stressful the day was, play time was active time and that was a great stress reliever.  Now as adults, I love to spend time with you being active, going for walks in parks with our dogs, watching birds and mammals and taking pictures while we exercise.

It was probably 15 years ago when you gave me the nickname “Plays a lot” when your teachers asked you for a Native American sounding name to describe your Dad as you participated in Native American studies.

Play never gets old and you are never too old to play.  Stay active and fit.  Love, Dad

Michelle Kwan:

Dear Daddy,

Thank you for always being there for me.  You inspire me because of your hard work and dedication to your family.  As the youngest of three children, I remember the sacrifices that you made for all of us - working multiple jobs to provide food on the table, spending time and money to enroll us in sports, and dedicating your life to your family.

Although you never figure-skated or played hockey, you could always sense that your baby girl loved to ice skate.  I know that it wasn’t easy waking me up at 4:30 am every morning, but you and Mom both knew sports are good for mind, body, and spirit.  And you recognized that the determination and goal-setting I would learn in sports could be transferred to other aspects of my life.

I cherished our quality time that we spent together in the ice rink talking about sports and life – and I always knew there was a hidden lesson to learn in every conversation.  One particular conversation that I remember well was about the word appreciation – your lesson to me was that in life I need to appreciate the opportunities and people in my life.  I’ll take that lesson wherever I go because I’m thankful to you every day for taking care of me, teaching me life’s lessons, and for being the best Dad in the world! Happy Father’s Day!

Cornell McClellan

Dear Dad,

This is my letter of thanks to you.  I wanted to say thanks for your never changing and unconditional love.  I wanted to say thanks for allowing my youth to be virtually carefree, never thinking twice about food, clothes, or shelter.  Just with your presence alone, I was always assured these needs would be met and felt protected in a way you couldn’t imagine.  Thank you for showing me in real time, what it means to be a man…strong, dependable, consistent, yet giving in a way where all who came into contact with you knew your heart was big enough to provide refuge for all that were in need.  Watching how hard you worked sometimes two and three jobs at a time (but stable enough to be the most senior person of 43 years on one job) demonstrated more loyalty and commitment and willing to work harder than anyone else.

These lessons you shared, not only though our conversations but your day to day example, have shaped me into the man I am today.  My relationships with my own children are shaped by your guidance.  As they have grown from babies to young adults and beyond, it has been your voice that has guided my hands as they have grown into the wonderful grandsons and granddaughter you know today.   It is because of your spirit of generosity, that I am so passionate about encouraging men to stand tall and be a refuge for their children and others that may be in need.

Thank you with all my love,


Curtis Pride:

Dear Dad,

Father’s Day is the time that I reflect back on my childhood and how you were instrumental in my upbringing.  You have taught me many things despite my deafness – that I should believe in myself, know that anything is possible, and that I am just as important and capable as any other person.

I will never forget the times that you and I played ball together throughout the years whether it be baseball, basketball or soccer.  I will never forget the times when you took me fishing even though you didn’t like to fish. 

Now that I am a father of two beautiful children, I understand the importance of spending quality time with them.   It is a great feeling of being outside doing many different activities with my kids whether it be riding a bike, playing catch or going to the beach.  Seeing the joy on my kids’ faces when they are having a great time with me is priceless.  I am teaching my kids the importance of physical activities and eating healthy just the way you taught me.

I look forward to creating many more memories with my kids so that one day when they are older, they will look back with fondly on all the good times that we had, like I am doing at this moment as I reflect on our time together when I was a child.

Thank you for everything you have done for me, for being there for me when I needed you, for teaching me life lessons and, most importantly, for your never ending unconditional love.

Love your son,


Donna Richardson Joyner:

Spending quality time with family is important to me. My greatest personal accomplishment is being a caregiver for my father, Papa JR, who has dementia. I'm blessed to have help to take care of him around the clock.

In personally taking care of my dad, I have to find balance by showing respect for him as a man and father,  as well honoring his dignity. Yes, there are times when he acts out but it's not like I can put my dad in "Time Out." I thank God everyday for him knowing who I am because there may come a time when he won't know my name.

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