Bruce Feiler’s new book is The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me. To watch a video of the first-ever meeting of The Council of Dads, and to download tips for starting your own Council Moms or Council of Dads, please visit www.councilofdads.com.
GLENN: The Council Of Dads, Bruce Feiler is I don't mean to impose my friendship of him, but is becoming a friend of mine, a written and a man I deeply respect. He wrote the book that I told you about, America's Prophet, that is just eye opening. It is really a fascinating historical look at America and the role that Moses played in America. He wrote this book called the Council Of Dads and he has also written something for the website under the family and relationship section at glennbeck.com (link: The Council of Dads).
He writes, Last fall, Glenn Beck invited me on his radio show to discuss my new book, America's Prophet, about the influence of Moses on American life. That visit initiated an ongoing conversation about faith, family, and America. What Glenn didn't know as he reached out to me was I was involved in a much deeper personal struggle that taught me more about faith and family than I have ever known. In July 2008 I learned that I had a seven inch cancerous tumor in my left femur. I instantly worried about my three year old twin daughters and what life might be like for them. Would they wonder who I was, would they wonder what I thought? Three days later I awoke with an idea of how I might give them voice. I would reach out to six different men from all parts of my life and ask them to form a Council Of Dads. The men ranged from my oldest buddy to my newest pal. I asked each of them to teach a different lesson to my girls, how to live, how to travel, how to think, how to dream. I asked them each for a single page to convey to my daughters. Their answers ranged from how to take a trip, be a traveler, not a tourist, how to make your dreams come true. Don't see the wall. One counseled that even in hard times, they should even harvest the miracles around them. These answers were intended for my girls, but they have ever made me a better dad.
He's put it now in a book, the lessons that he learned from his friends and the lessons for his daughters, you might have read about it in the "USA Today" weekend section, I think it was last week or the week before.
Bruce Feiler and the Council of Dads. Bruce, how are you, sir?
FEILER: Always nice to be with you and since you just, I guess, Facebook friend requested me on the radio show, I should start by accepting your Facebook friend request.
GLENN: That's somebody else doing that. I didn't ask you to be my Facebook friend. So, Bruce, tell me the biggest thing that you learned through this experience and how it would relate to somebody who's not going through a life threatening illness.
FEILER: Yeah. I think that it's interesting that this idea came out of a life threatening situation for me but I don't think it's about cancer and I don't even think it's really about parenting. I think at its heart, the idea behind the Council Of Dads is about friendship, about building a bridge between your friends and your family and inviting your friends to play a more active role in your children's lives and I think that to me what the idea is at its heart and I think that people what are responding I'm in Washington this morning. I'm not in New York and I did an event last night which is interesting to watch. I've never had this experience. I think you had it with Christmas Sweater, when you have this emotional connection, when you've written something
FEILER: that people want to do something with and a woman there, she had lost her husband. She bought one for each of her grown children so they could feel connected to their father. Somebody else who had just lost her father bought a copy of Council Of Dads to give to her mom on Mother's Day. A man that lost his father 38 years ago bought six copies to use as a way to invite their friends into a council. And I have to say, I was thinking, you know, in anticipation of talking to you, I went back and looked at some of the things that you outlined in the 9/12 project and I was just interested that you one of things that you felt compelled to say was that family is sacred, like there is something out there right now, it's, like, somehow there is an anti family idea out there, they conspire almost against having friends and I think why I wanted to write this in a book was to sort of inspire people and move people to remember that thing that is at the heart, like, I come from a town in Georgia and I think in a lot of ways this book for me is a way of capturing the values that I had growing up that we've lost, a way of having an extended family around us with your children at the heart.
GLENN: How difficult was it for you to think I mean, I've how difficult was it for you to think my kids I won't be there for them and then to choose the people that you said, Okay, well, this guy, he's got this piece of me and he understands this piece of me and he'll be able to explain when they have when they have doubts or questions or their they're going into college, he can be there to explain this one piece?
FEILER: Well, as a father, you think about and I've sure you've gone through this many times yourself with your own children, I might be curious to now how your mind works in this way, do you think, oh, the boys I'm not going to scowl at or the aisles I'm not going to walk down or what am I going to say the night before they have their first child or the first time they get their heartbroken and for me it was about voice and I wanted to reach out to these friends and it was a Linda, my wife, joked that it was like having six marriage proposals, to sit down with these men and ask them to play this role in my girls' lives, but it was what they started telling me that was so transformed this idea of being a traveler, not a tourist. When you travel, go out there and don't just look in the mud puddle but jump in and thrash around and get covered in mud. And I know you have that philosophy of really engaging life and I remember the first time I had one of these conversations with these men and I went to my wife and said, you know, their advice is not just going to change our daughters' lives, it's going to change our lives, too, and I think that is really the secret of this. We did it for the girls but it's really helped us because I think it says to your kids, I mean, you know, you've spoken about your dad and I'll be curious, I mean, you've learned a lot, you've spoken a lot about the ability of fathers and families to be at the heart of America, to, like, say, You can come through a difficult situation and do you know what? You end up stronger. I feel safer now, having this idea and I feel so much better because I actually wrote this down in a book to give to my kids that people can pass around an it's inspiring people in their own lives to say, what would northbound my council and what advice can I give to my children and it begins this conversation and if the Council Of Dads can inspire that conversation in America, then this has been a real gift in my life.
GLENN: I just started a new diary. You know, I put it on a shelf. I finish one and I put it on a shelf and I just finished one and I went back to the beginning of it and I realized, wow, I've written two since this point and I went back to look. The first pages in the diary that I started September was about 40 pages just to my daughter. I wrote it as I was listening to the counsel she was being given by her college and they were sailing, Hey, you're a freshman and you're going to get this, and I'm sitting there listening to it and some of the things I wrote, I hope you disregard this, what he just said, but I wrote several pages on just advice. I haven't given it to my daughter. I planned on it and then I thought, I'm going to write it out nice and I never got around to it and now it's more in my philosophy and I think this is kind of one thing that people could do, like you say, you wrote it down, I think your children, if they can read your diaries later in life, when they are your age, they will see that you're no different, you think your parents are perfect or they know or and so you say, gosh, I don't know how my parents do this, because I'm bluffing. They were, too. We just don't tell you that when we're scolding you, because if you know we're bluffing, you could win. Do you know what I mean? So, just making a diary of your thoughts and your philosophy also makes a difference and is a Council Of Dads like, wouldn't you say, in a way, because wasn't part of your idea to be able to pass on who you were to your children and have them know when they had questions, how you would have
FEILER: That's exactly right. And I think one of the reasons that I came out from wry experience with was leave something behind for your kids and I think if my book is inspiring people to do that is correct that's from. As you know, in the book I went back and I my grandfather was an old fashioned southern man, didn't speak a lot. It turns out when he died, he left behind 28 cassette tapes, 28 cassette tapes, and I went back and listened to them. No one had ever listened to them in my family. And it was I felt he was kind of alone because he didn't have anyone to talk to, but he was telling me stories in these tapes and it was clear he wanted somebody to listen. My father, my favorite chapter in the Council Of Dads, one of them, is on my father. He's a man of a lot of wisdom. He's done a lot of things and I was able to put them into the book, but they're very short. I mean, he makes Twitter look long. And here I spent an entire book writing a book about wisdom for my children and I think that what there's kind of this evolution of manhood and what people are saying to me my wife is very funny on this topic. She was, like, I would listen to you have these conversations with these men. It turns out you guys were talking about balancing work and family and your feelings, even your weight, and your fears in life. It's exactly what the moms would talk about at preschool drop off. And she was, like, The woman are looking at this book as king of a peek into male intimacy, like what you guys talk about behind the locker room door or when you go fishing. And I think people are craving it and I think this one of the things that I think connected you and me in that first conversation we had about America's prophet Was this idea of you saying you wanted to teach your children the love of history that you have and the fact that you were able to get a big idea that really inspired you and bring it back to the human level of it's about passing on this love to your children. That's when I thought, do you know what? Glenn and I have this interest in the world and in history but also in your family and it's something we have in common.
GLENN: Yeah. I think everybody does. When it all comes down to it, you know, the old cliche, when you're on your death bed, you know, you never say, Oh, I wish I would have spent more time in the office, there is I have a couple of times in the last couple of years that one was and I thought I was having a heart attack and the time to the hospital was
FEILER: Oh, wow.
GLENN: terrifying and I remember being in the car and, you know, my wife was, like, you know, you're not driving, you're not driving and I'm trying to act all no. It's nothing. And we get halfway to the hospital and I said to my wife, I'm trying to tell her this without not freaking her out and I got very quiet for a long time because I realized I was trying to figure out how do I say this to her, but it was overwhelming and I said so her, Honey, when you drop me off, if something looks like it's going wrong, just go back and get the kids and it was such a stunning moment that where everything is in perspective, that it is really, when it coming down to it, it's nothing, nothing but your family and your kids. It's a great new book. It's called the Council Of Dads. It is available everywhere by Bruce Feiler, who is an artist with words. You will love this book and you will fall in love with Bruce Feiler as just a decent, decent human being. The Council Of Dads, Bruce Feiler, available everywhere now. Bruce, best of luck.
FEILER: Talk to you soon.