Podcast episode: Bad-ass dads of history

When looking through history for great fathers, we have a tendency to celebrate people who did great things who were also dads. Fatherly inspiration from historical figures feels a bit lacking.

This episode shares the stories of several individuals who accomplished noteworthy things BECAUSE they were dads. Get ready to hear about Candido Jacuzzi–who launched a major brand because he wanted to ease his son’s pain. You’ll learn the story of Eddie Mabo–who fought the law for his kids and won. There’s also the story of “knuckle-knicker” John Holter, who in an effort to save his own son brought life to thousands more. Plus, several more!

Episode 37: Bad-Ass Dads of History

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Episode Transcript:

Bad-Ass Dads of History

  1. This is the Bad-Ass Dad Pod
    1. The podcast detailing the journey to live our best lives, right now, no matter what age we are.
    2. Thanks for joining the quest, friend.
      1. My name is Ryan Dunn.
      2. I’m your fellow sojourner.
      3. A fellow seeker of fatherly truths.
      4. A comrade in the sharing of spontaneous dad jokes.
      5. I’m a level 5 relationship ranger.
      6. Level 6 gym warrior.
      7. Level 3 debt mage.
      8. AND your lawful good podmaster.
    3. I want to get historical this episode.
      1. Partly just for fun.
      2. But also as a means of advocacy for advancing the knowledge of good parenthood.
  2. Let me share something with you:
    1. I had this idea of starting a segment on the podcast where I share the stories of Bad-Ass Dad’s from history.
      1. In order to do so, I would definitely need a number of stories collected in order to make this a sustainable feature.
      2. So I did a little web research… and what I found was APPALLING.
      3. It is near impossible to find stories of great dads that don’t have “from TV” or “from movies” attached to them.
        1. In other words, when we look for examples of bad-ass dads, we are led to examples from fictional people.
        2. It’s a bit unsettling that when we want to bear a witness of great parenting, we have to make stuff up.
      4. Does that mean the true stories don’t exist? I don’t think so.
        1. I think it’s more likely that through history we haven’t placed a proper emphasis on the role of father.
          1. It’s like, historically speaking, we celebrate men for accomplishing great political or military acts.
          2. And we note then that they may have also been attentive dads.
          3. Not really a glorificaiton of the role of father… we don’t celebrate that through history.
        2. And we’re becoming aware of that.
        3. It’s one of the ways society is getting better.
        4. Which, on the whole, I think it is. Society is getting better…
          1. We certainly have a crap ton of problems in our society
            1. Racism and closed-mindedness jump to mind.
          2. But that said, I believe I’d prefer to be alive today than at any other point in history.
          3. Sure, things aren’t great for a lot of people–but they’re better than they were… and I believe they’re getting better.
            1. Our unrest is centered on that things aren’t where they should be.
            2. And there are too many people standing in the way of progress.
          4. So today we’re going to advance the progression of fatherhood and share some bad-ass stories.
    2. Speaking of bad-asses…
      1. When I DID find stories of acclaimed historical fathers, the reasons provided for proclaiming their greatness seemed a bit frivolous.
      2. Let’s take Charlemagne, for example… listed on a few sites as one of history’s great fathers.
        1. Charlemagne was King of the Franks and the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
        2. He was in power from the late eighth and early 9th centuries.
        3. He was a prolific father,
          1. Meaning, he had a bunch of kids.
          2. At least 20… some of them born to one of his several wives.
          3. Others born to concubines.
        4. Which, I don’t know, maybe this is my cultural exceptionalism taking over…
          1. You know, my assumption is that a solid family unit puts a pair of committed adults together
          2. Who then share in the rearing of their brood.
          3. But Charlemagne lived in a different society… sooooo… you know… spread the seed far and wide, I guess.
            1. Wives, concubines… it’s all there.
        5. ANYWAYS, we’re to revere Charlemagne as a doting dad for two reasons.
          1. FIRST, he insisted all of his kids receive an education.
            1. Even the female children–which was a bit extraordinary for the time.
            2. During those centuries, it was believed that women couldn’t handle a scholarly education.
            3. But Charlemagne and his daughters proved the patriarchy wrong with their education.
              1. Investing in the sciences and polity just like the male children.
              2. Good on that, Charlemagne and daughters.
          2. Second reason we remember Charlemagne as a great dad of history: he didn’t kill his son, Pepin.
            1. Yeah, really, that’s it.
            2. Here’s the story: One of Charlemagne’s sons, known as Pepin the Hunchback, was implicated in a plot to kill Charlemagne.
            3. But instead of executing his son alongside the rest of the conspirators, Charlemagne sent him to a monastery.
            4. That’s a doting dad, right there, am I right?
            5. I mean, nevermind that there were conditions to begin with in which Pepin felt comfortable assassinating his own father.
          3. I think what really bothers me about glorifying characters like Charlemagne as a father, though, is that it reflects just how little we seem to expect of fathers.
          4. Like in Charlemagne’s case, having the basest of compassion and concern for his kids elevates him to the level of one of history’s great dads.
          5. It’s almost like this: we don’t expect dads to be present or involved, so when they do show a slight amount of effort and interest in being nurturing people, we praise that as being something beyond expectation.
          6. Like, “Oh Charlemagne… that old doting softy… He didn’t even have Pepin disemboweled, castrated, and beheaded. We should all aspire to such love…”
      3. So that is the big hairy challenge of finding bad-ass dads through history. 
        1. Historically, we don’t elevate or praise men just because they were good dads.
        2. We remember them because they did other extraordinary things… like unite the Franks and establish a dynasty–as in Charlemagne’s case.
        3. So then, we’re left just to identify which of these famous fathers had even the basest of interests in being concerned parents.
        4. Again, like Charlemagne.
      4. Fathers, we should aspire to higher ideals.
        1. Showing up and expressing the baseline of care should be the norm–not what we celebrate as exceptional.
        2. I want history to remember great fathers for being great fathers–not simply for being kick-ass warlords who seemed to have a bit of concern for their children.
      5. I’m going to try to dive deeper into this… I want to celebrate the truly exceptional with this episode: a deep dive into Bad-Ass Dads of history.
        1. That may have been my longest episode introduction of all time.
        2. But it’s stuff that needed to be said.
        3. So in this episode, we’re going to celebrate dads in history who were motivated to do great things because they were dads.
  3. Alright, quiz time: what do you call that warm bath thing you get into that has the swirling water and the bubbles?
    1. There are several names: some call it a whirlpool. Or a hot tub. Or a… what else? A Jacuzzi.
    2. Today, Jacuzzi is a brand name that has become synonymous with hot tubs–very much like Kleenex becoming synonymous with facial tissues.
    3. Jacuzzi is something considered to be very luxurient… maybe even decadent.
    4. But that couldn’t be farther from the true origins of the brand–which actually rose to popular prominence because of a father’s great concern for his child.
    5. Today, Jacuzzi is a household word because Ken Jacuzzi had a great dad.
    6. Here’s the story, 
      1. When little Ken was two-years old–this was around 1942–he caught a severe fever.
      2. The fever ravaged his little body, leaving him with systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that crippled him essentially from his neck to his knees.
        1. Rheumatoid arthritis, in a nut-shell, causes pain and swelling in the joints and eventually erodes and deforms the bones.
      3. Ken’s dad, Candido, was an Italian immigrant to the US who, along with his brothers, built a successful company producing submersible pumps for agriculture.
        1. Apparently, Candido did well financially,
        2. Because when Ken was stricken, Candido sold off some property so that he’d be able to spend more time with Ken.
          1. The sale allowed Candido to pay for specialized therapy and treatments for Ken.
          2. Most of the treatments, though, offered Ken little comfort.
            1. The gold injections didn’t work.
            2. Goat’s milk treatments didn’t work.
          3. Over time, though, they found that Ken responded well to hydrotherapy.
            1. It alleviated Ken’s immense pain.
            2. However, it was a long drive to and from the treatment.
            3. So long, in fact, that the drive itself aggravated Ken’s symptoms.
        3. So Candido set about to find a way to bring the comforting hydrotherapy closer to home.
          1. He pulled out one of the Jacuzzi Brothers sump pumps–perhaps out of the basement–and redesigned int to be a water jet.
          2. Then he added an air intake valve, so the the pump could mix water and air and shoot it through jet.
          3. He dropped the whole pump into the family bathtub, and the result was an inhome whirlpool.
        4. The at-home treatments worked so well for Ken that one of his doctors requested Candido make more of the units. 
          1. So Candido patented the new Jacuzzi pump… 
          2. And, of course, the new hot tubs the patent spawned took off… eventually just becoming known as Jacuzzi’s.
      4. Now a household word because Candido was a great dad seeking to alleviate his son’s discomfort.
      5. Cool, huh?
  4. Let’s talk more about what the amazing love of a dad can do.
    1. John Holter was a machinist–a self-proclaimed “knuckle-knicker”
    2. In 1955, his son Casey was born and discovered to have a condition called hydrocephalus.
      1. This is a condition where fluid from the brain that normally drains into the blood stream is for some reason blocked from draining.
      2. At that time, there wasn’t a known cure.
      3. And, in fact, the only treatment was temporary: 
        1. Twice a day, a needle and syringe were poked into Casey’s head and the excess liquid was pulled out.
        2. When Casey go older, doctors implanted a shunt under his scalp… which kind of worked.
          1. The problem was that the valve on the shunt often failed.
    3. So John, hoping to save his son, went all dad and took matters into his own hands.
      1. Despite not being doctor–or a college degree for that matter–John invented a new valve for Casey’s shunt.
      2. And it’s total bad-ass dad design here.
        1. The valve was simply a flexible tube with rubber condoms on each end.
        2. Each condom had a slit in it.
        3. The slits acted like nipples–when pressure from the brain fluid built up, they opened to let the fluid drain.
        4. Then once the pressure was lowered, they closed and nothing else was allowed to flow back into the fluid around the brain.
      3. Casey’s neurosurgeon saw the simple genius of the design and approved it for use–IF they could find a material that would be safe inside of Casey’s body.
        1. A new material called silicon was found… and John went to work producing Casey’s device.
        2. But, Casey needed an operation before they could finish fabricating the new device.
          1. An inferior shunt was put in.
          2. And as a result, Casey suffered brain damage and died of a seizure a few years later.
        3. Other children received John’s device, however… and recovered from their hydrocephalus.
        4. John went to work manufacturing his invention… and has contributed to saving the lives of thousands of people.
    4. There you go: a couple cool stories about people being elevated to notoriety because they were dad’s going the extra mile.
    5. So how about a story of a noted father suffering in the public eye because of his fatherly passion.
  5. We could argue that was the case for Nicholas II.
    1. Nicholas was the Czar of Russia in the early 20th century. 
      1. He is not remembered as a great leader.
      2. During his reign, the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia, leading to the formation of the Soviet Union.
      3. During the revolution, Czar Nicholas and his family were murdered.
      4. And it might be argued that Nicholas’s concern for his family and demonstrated lack of concern for his roles outside of family led to his unpopularity.
      5. In the least, Nicholas showed that he was willing to make unpopular decisions in the public eye for the sake of his family.
    2. Here’s the case exemplified.
      1. Nicholas and wife Alexandra had 5 children: 4 daughters and one son.
      2. Nicholas doted over his family–even using official government journals to log every day happenings with his wife and kids.
      3. In a role where most assumed the nation-state would be of highest priority, Nicholas put his family in highest priority.
      4. Nicholas’ political opponents seized and highlighted this fact–suggesting Nicholas was too self-interested to be an effective ruler and made decisions detrimental to the health of the nation (and there’s probably some validity to these claims).
      5. Here’s the case exemplified:
        1. Nicholas’ son, Alexei, had hemophilia–which is a blood disorder where the blood does not clot.
        2. So poor little Alexei was susceptible to uncontrolled bleeding.
        3. The family was desperate to find treatment for their child–and, it should be noted, only male heir… which is a big deal when you’re a Russian monarch.
        4. Eventually, Nicholas and Alexandra turned to a notorious faith healer named Grigori Rasputin to treat their son.
          1. Many people regarded Rasputin as a charlatan and sexual deviant.
          2. He was unpopular with the ruling class.
          3. And, once inside the royal palace, he definitely tried to use his position to spread his influence and acquire more power.
        5. Many feared the royal family was under sway of the disliked and unpredictable Rasputin–which contributed to the growing dissatisfaction with the monarchy.
      6. Eventually, Rasputin was murdered by political dissidents.
      7. Then the Czar abdicated amidst rioting and growing political opposition.
        1. When the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional Russian government, they feared that Nicholas and his family would be used as a political unifier of opposition.
        2. So they pretended to bring the family together for a portrait and then machine gunned them to death in 1918.
    3. Alright, that’s the unhappy story of Nicholas II…
      1. Poor ruler? Yeah, most likely.
      2. Doting father? Also seems likely.
  6. OK. So how about a dad who brings tons of people together because he’s a bad-ass dad?
    1. This is the heart-warming story of Dick Hoyt.
      1. Actually, I should say… this is the story of TEAM Hoyt.
      2. I get the impression Dick would not like me singling him out in this endeavor.
    2. Here’s the story, in 1977, Dick Hoyt was 36 year old, retired Air National Guard Lt. Colonel.
      1. Dick’s 15-year old son, Rick, asked Dick if they could participate in a 5-mile race benefitting a local student who’d become paralyzed.
      2. It was a cause dear to Rick, because he, too, was paralyzed.
        1. Rick Hoyt was born with cerebral palsy.
        2. Originally, they thought Rick would live in little more than a vegetative state.
        3. But when Rick was fitted with a computer that allowed him to communicate, it was clear that Rick was highly intelligent.
          1. He attended school.
          2. And went on to graduate with a degree from Boston University n 1993…
          3. Back to 1977…
      3. Dick pushed Rick and wheel chair through the 5-mile race.
        1. Afterwards, Rick noted that when they were running, he didn’t feel like he was handicapped.
        2. Dick wanted to give his son that release… so he began training to do more races.
          1. Everyday, Dick ran with a bag of cement in the wheelchair, because his son was at school or studying.
          2. They also started competing in many, many events.
      4. Eventually, competing in over 1100 endurance events…
        1. Including 72 marathons
        2. 6 Ironman Triathlons
          1. This involves Dick pulling Rick in a boat with a bungee cord
        3. Team Hoyt clocked a 17-minute 5K (which is pretty darn quick)
          1. Enough to make me jealous, at least
          2. The best I’ve ever clocked was 20:14. Maybe the sub-20 5K is the next challenge… 
          3. BUT, I gotta hit that dunk first!
          4. ANYWAYS…
        4. Team Hoyt has run, a lot.
        5. They’ve also inspired, ALOT.
          1. There are now several Team Hoyt chapters across the US
          2. And in Canada.
        6. And there are many groups racing in similar ways
          1. Including Ainsley’s Angels–a group several of my friends run with.
          2. So, I just wanted to give a shout out to them.
  7. NEXT STORY:  there are those parents whose legacy are not inventions or great feats of strength, but the legacy they hand to their kids… like Eddie Koiki Mabo.
    1. Eddie was born on Mer Island in 1936
      1. Mer Island is part of Australia
    2. Eddie was a native Australian, and grew up immersed in traditional culture
    3. 1959, Eddie and wife Bonita moved to a city Queensland
      1. Where they planned to raise their… ready? … 10 kids
      2. Eddie wished a fully encompassing education for their children.
        1. One that would include elements of their heritage.
        2. BUT, at school, native Australian culture was ignored.
      3. Ah, what do you do? Amirite?
        1. If you’re Eddie, you found a school.
        2. He established the Black Community School in Townsville.
        3. It was the first school in Australia that taught about indigenous history and culture.
    4. Eddie wanted to pass more cultural legacy to his children–a legacy and culture that was tied to the land his people traditionally lived on.
      1. The problem to be overcome was that the government owned all native land.
      2. So Eddie had no claim to his family’s land on Mer Island.
        1. This was a terribly racist policy
        2. Because it was built on the assumption that Australia was unoccupied at the time of colonization.
        3. Of course, it wasn’t… the land just wasn’t occupied by white people.
      3. So Eddie sued the government 
      4. The lesson this taught his kids was deep.
        1. His middle daughter remarked that Eddie taught her to “keep fighting the fight. If you give up, they win. So don’t give up.”
        2. She observed her father keeping up the fight for 10 years.
        3. Eddie stayed in his battle against the government until his death in 1992.
        4. 5 months following his death, the court overturned governmental policy and upheld the land-owning rights of native Australians. 
        5. For the first time, the government acknowledged that Australia had a history before the arrival of white settlers–and that pre-existing land rights would be honored.
  8. A similar great dad is Ziauddin Yousafzai.
    1. You are more likely to be Ziauddin’s daughter, Malala.
      1. Malala is young education activist.
      2. She became very well-known after the Taliban made an assassination attempt on her.
      3. She survived a a gunshot wound to the head… which is pretty bad ass, itself.
      4. But just as inspiring is that she did not back down in her advocacy for women’s rights–especially for education. 
        1. And I should mention that was just 15 at the time.
        2. Pretty dang driven young person, there.
      5. Malala has gone on to win the Nobel prize… the youngest person to do so. 
      6. She continues to write and advocate… not just for education, but for a number of human rights topics.
    2. But you want to hear something bad-ass, you need to hear how Malala talks about her father.
      1. And it’s important to keep in mind that Ziauddin raised Malala in the midst of one of the most oppressive regimes of our time.
        1. Young women Ziauddin’s and Malala’s culture were supposed to be invisible… and certainly not worthy of education.
        2. Malala said this about her dad: “My father made me realize that my voice was powerful […] I knew how to tell a story, I knew how to speak up.”
      2. It’s hard to imagine a deeper legacy we could hand to our children than that of empowerment…
        1. What more could we give them than the belief that they matter…
        2. That they have the power to shape the world…
        3. That their voices have power.
  9. Lastly, let’s talk about the one dad we celebrate on Father’s Day… William Jackson Smart.
    1. And when we’re talking William Jackson Smart, we’re talking single dad, 1878.
      1. That’s the year the wife of the Army veteran and farmer died.
      2. Leaving Mr. Smart with 5 children.
    2. William remarried in 1882.
      1. Marrying a widow who, herself had three kids… so, that’s now 8, if you’re counting.
      2. The newlyweds did their thing and over time, brought 4 more kids into the world… we’re up to 12 now.
    3. The Smart’s native Arkansas apparently couldn’t handle a family that size.
      1. So they headed West and landed in Spokane Washington.
      2. Celebrating all that new found space out West, the Smarts brought 2 more kids into the world. So we’re at 14.
    4. Then, the new Mrs. Smart passed away, once again leaving William as a single father–still with six kids at home.
      1. And this is 1898, mind you, so resources were a bit tougher to come by.
    5. 16-year old daughter Sonora saw her father’s strength in how we held the family together–often in spite of his own grief.
      1. She claimed that William became both father and mother to the remaining kids.
    6. She was so impressed that while she was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, she thought of her dad… and wondered why there wasn’t a similar day to honor fathers.
    7. Sonora was a talented organizer and pretty darn good at building a marketing campaign, because the next year, Washington celebrated a state-wide Father’s Day.
      1. The holiday did not catch on, however.
      2. Many men in places of power thought having a national holiday for Fathers was too sentimental.
        1. We dads aren’t supposed to get all sentimental and all that hogwash thinking.
        2. I suppose some dad’s were realists, too… 
          1. Holidays cost money.
          2. And the patriarchy wasn’t down with paying for this…
      3. But in honor of her dad’s “keep-going” spirit, Sonora kept pressing for a national Fathers Day.
        1. Many people and retailers adopted the third Sunday in June as an unofficial Father’s Day.
        2. And finally, when Sonora was 90 years old… President Nixon declared the third Sunday in June would be a national day for honoring fathers.
    8. Thank you, Sonora, for providing me the one day of the year my family will join me for sushi. 
  10. MUSIC IN… and I’m hungry!
    1. So I’m going to end this podcast episode.
    2. I’ve enjoyed the time, though.
    3. And, as you have, please show the appreciation through a rating and review on your podcast listening platform.
    4. The music you hear is by eyoelin.
    5. And my name is Ryan Dunn.
    6. You can find out way, way more about the Bad-Ass Dad quest and how one becomes a Bad-Ass person physically, financially and relationally over at theBADPod.com.
    7. Check it out… new content every week.
    8. That includes, in part, new podcast episodes every other week.
    9. So I’ll talk to you in a couple!
    10. In the meantime… keep questing, you bad-ass!
    11. OK Bye.

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on RethinkChurch.org, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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