Where have all the ‘gentlemen’ gone?

On Jan. 30, right before Super Bowl LI, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked by a 7-year old boy a seemingly simple question. The young boy wanted to know who Tom Brady’s hero was? Brady’s answer was not only touching, but extremely powerful.

Brady, who was visibly emotional, stated “Well, I think my dad is my hero because he is someone I look up to every day.”

Brady’s answer affected people because many of them feel the same way. Our fathers are our heroes, but sadly as a society we seem at times reluctant to acknowledge the value of a positive male role model in our culture. This observation got me thinking, “where have all the gentlemen gone?”

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I’m about to say. Both men and women have the capacity to serve as role models, and I will address that in a future article. However, for just a moment I want to talk about the importance of not just dads, but the positive role men play in our lives.

Like Brady, my father is my hero. Like most fathers, to the casual observer, our fathers seem like ordinary people, but therein is the trap. Gentlemen do not walk around handing out their biography. They know who they are and what they have accomplished, but also where they have failed. In my father’s case, he merely served in two wars, lost his father at a very young age, supported my grandmother for the rest of her life, and never had an ill word against anyone. My father adored his wife (my mother), and honored his mother throughout their lives. My father put his family first every day of his life, at times working three jobs so that we would be without want.

My father used ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ to the elderly people he transported around to their appointments or grocery shopping because as he always said, ‘they have earned that respect.’ However, my dad also extended that civility to the teenage bag boys and female cashiers at Pic-n-Pay because they provided him with a service he was grateful for. My father would give me a stern eye if I failed to say please and thank you because he believed everyone was deserving of courtesy. But my father was always there with a helping hand when I faltered, and a simple request, “get up.” Two words that would save my life.

I never heard my father complain once. As extraordinary as I know my father was, I also know that many of you have a father, stepfather, grandfather, uncle or male role model exactly like my dad. When I think of extraordinary men, it is usually the ones of simple origins who have made the greatest impact.

I remember my ninth-grade social studies teacher who returned one of my projects without a grade; with a message written at the top of the paper – “you can do better.” I remember all of my sports coaches who sacrificed their time to instruct a bunch of awkward, and at times, out-of-control boys.

I think of wonderful men in the earlier part of my life who served as role models, such as Cecil Echols, Bill Anzalone, George Amergian and Bill Mortimer. Gentleman who worked hard, but always thought of others before themselves. Yet, each and every one of us knows such men. They made a difference in our lives, not because they are famous sports stars, actors or powerful politicians, but because they were humble, thoughtful, decent, hardworking men. Not perfect, but no person is without flaws.

The answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this piece is encouraging. The status of gentlemen hasn’t gone anywhere. Maybe there are fewer of them, or maybe we as society ignore their contributions, dismissing them to the shadows. We are fortunate because there are gentlemen all around us, if only we open our eyes to these wonderful, unassuming, caring men.

I think of gentlemen such as Seacoast businessman/humanitarian Dan Plummer, veteran’s advocate Keith Howard of Liberty House, former University of New Hampshire Librarian Robert Morin (who, upon his passing, bestowed $4 million to UNH), recently departed community advocate/Marine Jerry McConnell, and my father-in-law Dave. Each offer themselves up daily, like thousands of other humble men, trying make a positive difference in our world, expecting nothing in return.
Gentlemen do not pat themselves on the back or send out press releases proclaiming their importance. Gentlemen wake up in the morning with a simple mission, to serve their family and their community, often without our gratitude or simple acknowledgment.

Today, I would like to thank all those gentlemen out there. Thank you for your silent sacrifice. Thank you for your service to your family and your community. Thank you for your humility, and thank you for making a difference in all of our lives.

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