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Nordette Adams

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A parenting tip gleaned from the life of former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford Jr. who died December 26. Perhaps we may also find here words of wisdom for the new year as we reflect on Kipling's poem 'If.'

From Goddess Blogs

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." -- (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene V).

Tonight Biography Remembers featured the life of former U.S. President Gerald Rudoph Ford Jr., who died December 26. I was young when Ford took office and did not consider the burden he must've carried to take on this country in Watergate's aftermath. Like many other young Americans I spent more time laughing at jokes about his clumsiness than reflecting on what it meant that a man should be called for such a time as that.

Much older and I hope somewhat wiser, when I heard of his death I thought about what it must have been like to take the reins of America during a time of turmoil in the wake of the Watergate scandal. As happens when I go into such meditative states, I wrote a poem, "They Told Me a President Died," and posted it at AuthorsDen.

Some of the comments in response to the poem mentioned Ford's integrity, his genuineness, and his gentleness. Listening to the Biography piece and recalling that many thought of him as gentle, not too bright, and "not very presidential," I was surprised to learn that Gerald Ford was known for having a temper as a child, a temper that perhaps he inherited from his biological father, a temper he learned to control.

In a time when some adults allow children to get a way with horrible behavior that often leads to violence as though self-control is beyond grasp, I think some parents may gain insight into better parenting if they consider Ford's younger years and his parents' disciplinary methods. Their methods may strike some folks as a bit old fashioned, but what's wrong with old-fashioned parenting borne of wisdom?

According to Biography, Ford's biological father was a wife beater and Ford's mother left him when Gerald was a baby. Imagine if she had "stood by her man" and raised her son with a wife beater as role model.

Divorced from Ford's biological father, his mother later married a man of the opposite temperament, a man known for integrity and gentleness named Gerald Ford. Despite not being the blood son of Gerald Ford Sr., the man who would later become the 38th President of the United States became known as Gerald Jr. Even after his mother and the senior Gerald Ford had biological children of their own, Gerald Jr. retained his status and apparently his stepfather loved him deeply.

In his parents' household, honesty was upheld as a preeminent virtue. The children received fewer penalties for misbehaving if they told the truth about their deeds. In addition to lessons about the importance of honesty, young Gerald had to learn to control his temper. To cure her son of his angry outburst, his mother made him memorize and repeat Rudyard Kipling's poem "If". Once he'd memorized the poem, whenever he exploded she'd make him repeat it in its entirety until he calmed down. Considering that the two character traits mentioned most in discussions about Ford are integrity and gentleness, it seems that he must've learned these important lessons well.

Memorize and recite Kipling's "If." What an intelligent and reasonable way to teach a child to control himself rather than to whip him, lecture him, or send him to his room for displaying inappropriate behavior. His mother forced him to engage his mind and interact with words of wisdom.

My mother, a school teacher by profession, used to have me and her students memorize "message poetry," and philosophical quotes from Booker T. Washington, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and George Washington Carver. For me personally she threw in Bible quotes, but I don't know that she ever had her students memorize any scripture since she taught in New Orleans Public Schools.

I can attest that some of these words of wisdom influenced my thinking and helped in my character development. One that I remember is "Give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you." (Madeline Bridges) That's one I should practice more often, and I tend to keep in mind "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." (Proverbs 23:7) I do not imply that I am any great wonder here or example of stupendous character; I say simply that these thoughts have helped me over the years, sometimes the voice of wisdom in my ear.

Perhaps there's a young parent out there who will find this type of disciplinary and training tool, like having a child memorize "If," useful. If you're unfamiliar with Kipling's poem "If," then here it is posted for your reading pleasure. I had forgotten some of it and am glad the Biography piece on Gerald Ford reminded me of its noble message. Actually, it wouldn't hurt us adults to memorize it for ourselves.

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Click here to read Nordette Adams' poem:
"They Told Me A President Died"
with readers' commentary

(c) Copyright 2006 Nordette Adams

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Reader Reviews for "A Parenting Tip Gleaned from the Life of the Late Gerald Ford"

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Reviewed by Randall Barfield 1/3/2007
to my way of thinking, old-fashioned must always refer to something that was 'passing' or temporal but not something that was permanent such as truth, honesty, can true virtues become old-fashioned? so, i agree...if it worked then, it can work many parents do we have nowadays who possess integrity? good job here
Reviewed by William Haynes 12/31/2006
George Washington Carver always fascinated me for some reason. I think Gerald Ford had a common touch, sort of an average Joe appeal. My memory from a lifetime of substance abuse is pretty dim but I do recall being impressed with the many inventions that are credited to George Washington Carver and I am almost positive that he refused to own patterns and reap profits from his work. I'd go on a rant here about the U.S. government and ownership of patterns but tis not a subject for open postings.
Reviewed by Carmen Ruggero 12/30/2006
"If", is something I needed to read. Your article is compelling and enlightening. It brings to light not only something many wouldn't know, but an aspect of a man's life I certainly didn't know. This is very well written, but from you, that's no surprise. The true value is in what it communicates. Thank you, Nordette.

Reviewed by RM Green 12/30/2006
This is priceless, My Friend! Thanks for sharing.

RM Green
Reviewed by Constance Gotsch 12/30/2006
Yes--certainly something to strive for and keep in front of us. If wesucced a few times in our lives, we're doing good. Both Betty and Gerald Ford are good examples of people who tried, and eventually hit the mark. Thanks for printing this, and happy New Year, Nordette.
Reviewed by Loretta Scott 12/30/2006
Thanks for sharing Nordette, a great read, you bring it home as usual.
Happy New Year my sista
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 12/30/2006
Thanks for sharing Nordette!!
Happy New Year sis!!

love Tinka

Books by
Nordette Adams

The Goddess and The Skylark, Dancing Through the Word Labyrinth

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  2. Back to the Bradshaws
  3. It's Coming, It's ready, It's Here!
  4. Grandfather's Ramblings / Comentarios del
  5. A few thoughts on Christmas
  6. All in a day's work!
  8. Liberation or bondage
  9. Choosing a secure password is key to avoid
  10. Alzyism's Part 5
  11. Cats are Smarter than you Know.
  12. Is your Facebook Friend a Digital Criminal
  13. The Women In Our Lives
  14. Christmas Cards Helping Haiti
  15. My New Grandson is Born!
  16. Integral Meaning
  17. Family
  18. Learning to Be Kind
  19. Earlin Harvey
  20. Family Heartbreak

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