Photographs and Memories: A Letter to My Grandsons

Grandpa and me fishing, 1967. (Credit: Ward Clark)

My Hopes For the Future

I have (so far) three grandsons. I hope to have more, but if the three I have are what I end up with, that's fine. One is 14, on the cusp of becoming a man, and a fine young lad at that. The others are pre-schoolers, but they are smart, robust, happy, confident, and boys by any measure. Along with their sisters - our oldest daughter has two daughters and a son, while our second has one daughter and two sons - they are my hope for the future, and I couldn't be more proud of all six of them.

But it is of grandsons that I write today, of the world I am leaving them, of what shape I think it may take, and of the men I hope for them to become. My grandfathers, after all, did much the same for me. This is for them, in the form of a letter that one day I hope will help shape their futures.


As my own grandfathers were a great influence on me, I hope to be a great influence on you three, even long after I'm gone. I hope that one day, you will tell your grandsons of the man I was and what you learned from me. My grandfathers were singular men, as was my father. Both of my grandfathers, you may be bemused to read, were born in the 19th century, in 1894 and 1896. Both filled out draft cards for the Great War in 1917; I have scanned images of both of their cards. My paternal grandfather enlisted, and due to his impressing the post commander of Camp Dodge, Iowa, by cooking some quail the Colonel had shot on a hunting trip, he ended up serving his two years in the Army as a cook right there at Camp Dodge. My maternal grandfather focused on his farm and did quite well and made a fair amount of money growing hemp for the War Department. 

Both of them raised their families during the Depression. Both saw two sons go off to the Second World War. Both had one son each coming home wounded and one (including my father) unhurt. Both were working men who provided for their families through dire economic times and two major wars. And both were great influences on the young me.

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I'm worried, my boys, about the state of the republic that my generation and the generations that followed are leaving you. I'm worried that we have mortgaged your future; your generation and the generations after yours will no doubt condemn us for that, and they will be right to do so. I'm worried about the culture we are leaving you; a culture where rioting and arson are considered acceptable political discourse, where the republic's borders are routinely ignored, a culture in which a senile dotard can remain as president of the United States if it serves the political purposes of shadowy figures behind the scenes. I'm afraid of the designs those shadowy figures have on our nation. I'm afraid that you face difficult times ahead. Fortunately, I have some thoughts as to how you can fix things.

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The task you and your generation face will not be easy, and it will not be pleasant. There are dark forces in our world. Recently we saw some of those forces reach into an American ally, Israel, and commit atrocities that are unimaginable to civilized people. It is likely to happen here, as well, if nothing is done to prevent it. There is great evil in the world, boys, and the only way that evil can be countered is with great courage and great strength. I look at the three of you as I write these words and am filled with hope as you show every indication that you will grow to be men, that your parents will have raised you to be men, and that you will be the men who will face down this and other evils and eradicate them. You will be the strong men who make good times, and there are certain things you will need to remember if you are to be up to the task.

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There are hard times ahead; there are almost certainly dark times ahead. Gird yourselves for a struggle. The only way evil can prevail is if good men allow it to do so, and it is your duty as a man to not let this happen. There are things that you should accept as your birthright as men and as Americans: Power and money are not important, but duty, courage, honor, fortitude, are integrity are. These are character traits that I have tried to live my life by, and I want you to do likewise. You have your own strength, which I know is great; and I hope, as you face those times, you may ask, "What would Grandpa have done?" And thus, you should arrive at an answer that works, that allows you to win, to seize victory.

Most of all, I want you to lead full lives, as men, as husbands and fathers. Find a girl you love and who loves you. There is a saying that is supposedly an old Chinese proverb, although I've never been able to verify its source it applies nonetheless: "Between these two, let there be respect." Respect is as important as love in a marriage. Find that girl, one you love and respect, and who loves and respects you. If you lack respect for the women in your life, you cannot possibly respect yourself. 

Build a home, a life, a family with her. Remember your Grandma and me, remember what our marriage was like, and you will have the best possible model. Work, as a man does, to build and keep a home for your family. Be trustworthy. Be reliable. Be determined. Be ambitious. In whatever work you choose to spend your life doing, show up a little earlier than the other guys, work a little harder than the other guys, and never pass up the chance to learn something new. Do this, and you will succeed, no matter what occupation you have made your life's work.

Most of all, be prepared to protect your family against anything that may come. And remember, as I have, the generations that came before you; they are a part of what makes you, you.

In time this world, this republic will be yours. It will be your turn to decide what happens next; to decide what is best for you and your families. I urge you to remember always that the only acceptable way for men to live is as free men; I urge you to always remember that it is liberty that is the truest and best value any society can hope for. I urge you to remember that your homes, your families, your country, and your liberty, are all things worth fighting for.

And I want you boys to always remember, all of you, how proud you have made me.

With all my hope and pride,

- Grandpa



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