Two summers ago, I asked six men to form a “Council of Dads” for my daughters. Ranging from my oldest friend, to my college roommate, to my closest confidant, these men would add a chorus of fatherly voices to the lives of my 3-year-old identical twin girls. I assigned each man a role to play—Travel Dad, Nature Dad, Dream Dad, and so on.
Click Image to View Advice from Iconic American Dads
I asked each man for the one piece of advice he would give to the girls. One told the girls how to plan a trip. Be a traveler, not a tourist. “You should approach a trip as a young child might approach a mud puddle. You can bend over and look at your reflection in the water, or you can jump in, thrash around, and see what the water smells like and feels like. I want to see you covered in mud.”
Another advised them how to dream, especially when they hit a setback. Don’t see the wall. “Of course you will encounter a wall from time to time, but you should find a way to get over it, around it, under it, or through it. Whatever you do, don’t succumb to it. Don’t give in to the wall.”
A third told them not to hunt for answers in their lives. Live the questions. “Have patience with the unresolved issues in your heart. Do not seek the answers, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”
These conversations were among the most moving in my life, and they inspired me to write a book, The Council of Dads, gathering this fatherly wisdom into one place. In addition to the lives of these friends, I culled the lives of my father, my grandfathers, and other figures in my life for the best piece of counsel I could pass on to my children.
(My piece of advice for my girls came from a custom in Paris in the 1840s. Pedestrians would take turtles for walks and let the reptile set the pace. Take a walk with a turtle. Behold the world in pause.)
Bruce Feiler: Who Will Raise My Daughters?
• The Council of Dads ExcerptWhile working on my book, a friend informed me that in his Council of Dads he would have a dead person. “If my daughters wanted to understand me,” he said, “they should understand Thomas Jefferson.” That remark got me thinking: What are the best pieces of fatherly guidance from America’s greatest men? Who would deserve a barstool in the lineup of Great American Fathers?
My “Council of Forefathers” ranges from Benjamin Franklin and his iconic truisms to the unexpected wisdom found in Bob Dylan’s lyrics. Their advice seems remarkably current. This Father’s Day, you’re invited to share the best fatherly advice you’ve ever received—or given—in the comment section below.