Power Tools: Author Seeks to Equip Dads with New Book
Published: 6/15/2012 4:48:33 PM
Long before he earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School, long before he became a Silicon Valley wunderkind (and Time magazine cover subject), long before he served as a U.S. Consul General and Chief of Mission, the Hon. Gregory W. Slayton was close to death.
When he was in his mid-twenties, Slayton was hit with acute viral hepatitis—along with “a lot of other stuff that was hard to recognize then”—during his stint running operations in Mali, West Africa, for World Vision International.
He was flown back to the states and headed immediately to the intensive care unit of a New York hospital. Doctors gave him a 50 percent chance of survival.
“I almost died,” says Slayton, Dartmouth ’81, Harvard MBA ’90.
But amid that harrowing ordeal, when his very life dangled in the balance, the most momentous point was an “out of the blue” phone call from his estranged father.
Slayton’s dad had abandoned his family several years before, and Slayton hadn’t spoken to him in almost as long—yet the conversation was “entirely about him” and lasted all of 90 seconds.
At that point, Slayton’s father told his critically ill, eldest son: “Hey, something’s come up. Gotta go. I’ll call right back.”
The return call never came.
In fact, Slayton said, that was the last time he spoke to his father, who died “all by himself” of liver disease after years of alcohol abuse in 2007.
“My father rejected all contact from me and my two younger brothers,” Slayton recalls. “He was the saddest man I have ever known.”
While he acknowledges having some good memories, his father’s overall impact on Slayton was “how not to be a dad.” Even after becoming a Christian during his senior year at Dartmouth College, Slayton admits, “I was completely unequipped for being a good dad.”
All of which readily explains why Slayton—during his travels later in Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe as a Fulbright Scholar—studied effective and ineffective fatherhood practices in those cultures.
And no surprise, either, that this professor, diplomat, author, businessman, and philanthropist brought all those experiences to bear—along with his resume parenting his own four children with his wife of 22-plus years—to create his latest book, Be a Better Dad Today! 10 Tools Every Father Needs (Regal). Charles Colson, Brown ’53, wrote the forward and the book is endorsed by Senator John McCain, Tim Keller, Joe Lieberman, and Luis Palau, among others.
Now more than ever, Slayton says, fathers desperately need tools to improve their God-ordained duties—and countless dads want them in their arsenals.
“It’s a huge unmet need,” he says. “There are 80 million men in the U.S. and Canada who are either fathers, grandfathers, or will be fathers in five years—and studies show that 80 percent will say, ‘Yes, I’d love to get some help on fatherhood.’ Except that 75 percent don’t know where to turn. Do you go to your church? Do you admit it to your pastor? Look at a Web site? There are many, many Christian books for moms…but nothing for dads.”
The meat of Be a Better Dad Today! are the 10 tools in the subtitle—all taken directly from his studies of fatherhood practices on six continents: Family First/Fun; All-in Marriage; True Moral Compass and True Humility; Heartfelt Love; Empowering Servant Leadership; Relationship Tools that Work; Heaven’s Help; Other Good Dads; Optimistic, Never-Surrender Attitude; and Dynamic, Whole-Person Support.
For Slayton, among the multicultural truths he absorbed that make up his 10 Tools, the notion of “being deliberate” about making time for your family seemed a particularly preeminent observation. In addition, the Eastern idea of extended families—as well as the hand-in-hand emphasis on the collective rather than the individual—is a positive force abroad, he’s found.
“It’s important to understand that family is the first line of defense in these cultures,” Slayton offers. “And the number one driver for falling below the poverty line is divorce; it has been for a long time.” Slayton says the latter underscores, at least in the U.S. and other Western nations, a shift from a “we” culture to a “me” culture.
“If something doesn’t satisfy my immediate concerns,” he said of “me” cultural devotees, “I’m not interested.” Slayton notes that the importance of family, by contrast, is supremely important in Asian cultures.
Slayton adds that the role of fatherhood mentors has been crucial not only in Asian cultures, but in every culture he’s studied. “In Africa, in Asia, good fathers always had good fathers themselves,” he notes, adding how important such modeling is from generation to generation.
And even considering all of his prestigious positions and accomplishments, Slayton says the job of fatherhood far outweighs them all—and not just personally, but globally as well.
“Being a good dad is eternal,” Slayton declares. “Every dad, no matter what station in life, has an equal chance of succeeding in fatherhood.”
-written by David Urbanski
For more information or to order Gregory Slayton’s book, visit http://www.beabetterdadtoday.com.
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Ivy League Christian Observer, a publication of Christian Union. Used with permission. Christian Union is a leadership develop ministry located in Princeton, NJ. For more information, visit www.Christian-Union.org.