Age, Professional Moniker, Father and Nephew?
55. Co-CEO of Walton Isaacson. Son of Homer, and Uncle of Jake
Your parents have been married for more than fifty years, how has their union informed your definition of fatherhood, and 'head of household?'
Looking back, my parents taught me by example about being selfless and how to approach life’s constant challenges with quiet strength, dignity, and grace. Every parent, and leader for that matter, has the obligation to see that the people they love and care about both thrive and face the world the way you want the world to faces them.
What is your best childhood, or young adult memory with your dad?
One of my favorite childhood memories of my dad was on Sundays when we would spend time together polishing our shoes before heading out to start our week. This was a simple, low tech, high touch moment that I had with him. He had a green metal case that held all of his personal things from when he was in the National Guard. That green box had become home for all of polish, paste, and rags that we would use to bring a high gloss shine to our shoes. Whenever he got it out, it was the signal that everything else would slow down and we’d be having father and son time. He shared stories, life lessons, and answered silly and serious questions, and made me feel like I was the only thing that mattered during our time together every week.
Your husband, Andrew, and you have readily taken on some paternal responsibilities for your nephew Jake. Does biology necessitate fatherhood? (part 2 of this question) How does that impact both of your lives?
Biology is unimportant as it relates to taking on some of the paternal responsibilities needed to raise a child. Andrew and I are part of a team of relatives and friends that share in the honor of helping my sister, Valerie, guide Jake into becoming the strong, accomplished and compassionate man that we all know he will become. We try to teach by example and stay present in his life. Andrew and I consider Jake to be one of the greatest gifts that we’ve ever received and realize what a privilege it’s been to have Jake in our lives. It helps put things in the proper perspective for us and always makes us realize that the most important thing to cherish (particularly as Jake grows older) is the time we spend together as a family.
What's the most important lesson a father, and father figure can teach his son?
It is difficult to pick one lesson that a father can teach a son because we learn to appreciate different lessons at various points in our lives. As a child, I always remember that my dad taught me that you must always finish what you’ve started. This has been one of the keys to my ability to focus and shut everything else down around me until the problem at hand is solved.
At any given time there are three generations of Walton men gathered, what is your most treasured time spent, the just you guys time that lives in your heart and mind?
Somehow we manage to do our own thing together. The time that we share around the pool (Jake is a fish), my dad grilling jerk chicken (Jake has a growing teen appetite… so he makes sure to eat Dad’s chicken before he gets out of the pool!) and me on the lounge reading GQ and Vanity Fair. We are aware of each other's presence, but don't have to voice it to make it real. There is a quiet unspoken connection that bonds us as a family.
The biggest misconception about Black fathers is...?
The biggest misconception about Black fathers is that they don’t care and that they're not present. That has not been my experience at all. The vast majority of the Black fathers that I know are incredible dads by all standards. They want what every father wants for their child: to be healthy, to have the same opportunities as their peers, and to grow up to be a responsible adults who contribute positively to society. Unfortunately, that is not how we’ve been portrayed by many politicians and via the entertainment industry. We all need to work overtime to dispel this misconception and to teach our sons to deal with this harsh reality instead of just wishing it away. Yes, it’s an unfair burden on black men. Period. End of sentence.
The most important lesson you have/will ever impart to Jake is what? (part 2) What has he taught you?
I hope that one of the most important lessons that Jake will learn from me is that being kind to others will bring him the joy that he will need to fuel his life. What he has taught me is that I need to take myself less seriously and to stop what I’m doing in order to be present around the people that matter to me most. My husband Andrew has always done this, but Jake helps to hammer the point home.
What advice can you offer to young men who don't have their father in their lives?
My advice to young men who don’t have their father in their lives is to realize that there are other men who care about you. Understand that you have a gift that must be shared with others. There are people and organizations willing to offer their time, support, and mentorship who want to see young Black men thrive. Be relentless in your pursuit to find these men. They are looking for you and want to do the right thing in helping you to reach your full potential.
You are naturally expressive, but surely there are words/sentiment that evade you in the course of any given day with travel and CEO demands, what are the words you wish to say more to your dad, and nephew?
I love you. You are always with me, even when I’m on the road. You make my soul sing every time I hear your voice, see your picture, or think about what you may be doing when I’m traveling. I am blessed to have you in my life and I hope that I honor your vision of what a good son or an uncle should be.
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