General PetreusI am trying to think of some good people for my son Aubrey to model himself after, for a little letter I'm writing to him, on his fourth birthday. I have in mind the General Petraeus. He was a totally admirable guy (see Vanity Fair) and Jack Aubrey. Do you have any thoughts about what was admirable about Aubrey besides how he was so competent and loyal and exuberant?

Laurel Kenner explains:

Jack Aubrey was a great and thorough teacher, merciful, generous to enemies, gentlemanly in war, well versed in deception, capable of silence, a great friend to few, a leader who knew how to keep a happy ship, not petty, paid attention to details without losing sight of his big goals, a fine husband, a fine musician, and enjoyed his success without being a jerk.

James Lackey writes:

I like Cal Ripken Junior's post play as much as his game records. You'll notice "for profit" and G_d bless him and Tony Hawk (skateboards/bmx) that realize giving back means a for profit structure as the Non Prof structures I deal with drive me nuts — their entire focus is how to get grants vs. teach kids to play/race.

Rich Bubb comments:

JeffersonI wish my parents had pointed me at the Greater Philosophers and Intellectual Giants, like Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Ayn Rand, Niederhoffer & Co., Ken Smith, Aristotle, Franklin, Jefferson, and so many others I am still discovering. One must indeed seek to acquire the wisdom of the world-prior-one's-existence, for that is the very foundation upon which our unique and individual intellectual journey/ies depend.Finally, one must not only know the "Who" (i.e., person/s or group/s) to model oneself after, but equally important is the "Why". It is far too easy to emulate the wrong type of person, but that will only push your life in the wrong direction.

Ken Drees adds:

Certain story books a la Grimm's fairy tales were very stimulating to me. The germanic flavor of old crones in candy houses, scary dark forests, and other stimulating fantasy was magical to my mind. I would highlight that older children's books seem much better than newer ones that are PC dipped. And older books usually had nicer illustrations.

My son recently had to do a report on snakes. I gave him a book from the archive's "Wild Animal Pets" from the big golden book series 1959. Needless to say, seeing pictures of kids handling, caring for and interacting with all sorts of animals like kids used to do in the 50s was stimulating for him. Since it is spring, maybe Aubrey could be given a role model that highlights botany, some kind of person who represents learning the diversity of nature. Children like to look at plants, flora and fauna.

Russ Sears writes:

At 4 a bright young mind is connecting to the world of fantasy, imagination and legends. There are myths and Aesop's Fables. There are many great American pioneers, heroic sports figures and rags to riches stories of entrepreneurs. If I recall my childhood correctly, establishing a personal familial connection to those models made all the difference to me. 

Pitt Maner writes:

the sound of musicWith respect to books there was a big push to sell children's encyclopedias back in the 60s. Some of those were visually appealing to youngsters. I remember liking a Cowles Comprehensive Encyclopedia because it was one big thick book, sort of a handheld Internet at the time, and you could look up all sorts of stuff. But before that there were pictorial dictionaries with Albert the Alligator and other such characters. I suppose Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers came later and replaced those learning tools. Encylcopedia Brittanica Jrs. are also interesting to kids.

Frankly at that age cartoons, comic books, Disney movies (Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Swiss Family Robinsons), and the TV characters Barbara Felden (Get Smart) and Barbara Eden (I Dream of Genie), I Spy (Culp and Cosby), Daniel Boone (Fess Parker), Star Trek (Spock, Capt. Kirk), etc. were my Sesame Street for good or bad. So good TV and movie characters can be useful models too.

Vince Fulco writes:

founder of aikidoMorihei Ueshiba, the founder of Japanese Aikido, is my role model. I regret not having studied enough of his work when I was younger. The messages of keeping grounded through thick and thin and self-reliance while not forgetting the needs of those around you are particularly appealing:

"The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter."

Stefan Jovanovich comments:

Petraeus is Ulysses Grant; their greatest difference is that Petraeus has only begun to carry the weight of having 40% of the voters in the country hate him.

Alston Mabry replies:

After last night I have become a big fan of the Butler program and its coach, Brad Stevens– and that's coming from somebody who went to the other school in that basketball game. The Butler team believed in themselves, never gave up, played quality basketball all the way through, and it was just a terrific contest.

And I think Coach K has run a great program for a long time. Leadership, commitment, connection, bringing out the best in his players, focusing on his players and their experience. And getting results again and again. I would consider him as a model for many positive qualities. (Here's a story about K.)

The game last night was a great reason to love the NCAA tournament. Butler will be back in a big way next year. I predict they will not be a school that goes to the Final Four only once. (As long as Brad Stevens stays….)The Duke team that won last night has been battling it's way step by step up the tournament ladder each year, and this year to win it all after losing key players early to the NBA and transfer…it's just amazing to see their work and commitment pay off like this.

Jim Sogi writes:

Bruce LeeBruce Lee.  He was a master of martial arts.
Musashi Miyamoto.  He was a master of strategy.

Jeff Watson writes:

I found that when John was that three, I started reading children's biographies of the greats in society. I let him pick and choose the characteristics he wanted to emulate, teaching good from bad, etc. Later, when he was 5-6, he was devouring biographies like crazy. Still, after all the parenting, teaching, lessons, etc, the kids are going to turn out however they want (neuroses and all) and we as parents have little to do with it. All we can really do is teach them right from wrong, a little knowledge, sportsmanship, manners, good citizenship and respect for others. The rest is up to providence.

Jeff Watson, surfer, speculator, poker player and art connoisseur, blogs as MOTU.

Chris Tucker suggests:

FeynmanAs for Jack Aubrey, I am impressed by his ability to take such pure joy in humor. His guffaw, belly laugh and knee slapping at the dumbest pun always made me laugh more than the joke itself.

I have Richard Feynman in mind as a person to emulate. The man was curious, curious, curious about everything. His curiosity and ability to find joy and humor, his practical jokes. His determination at one point to do nothing but have fun led him to the most incredible discoveries of his career.

Nigel Davies writes:

I think that most of these models mentioned thus far may be more suitable for when he's 12 or 13. For 4 year olds I suggest Thomas the Tank Engine. 

GM Davies is the author of Play 1 e4 e5: A Complete Repertoire for Black, Everyman, 2005

John Floyd comments:

I would focus more on the qualities one would wish to have emulated. Use tangible examples that are level appropriate. Then focus on the product of those qualities such as the people, achievements, etc.

The springtime blooms and growth are a reminder of what a strong foundation can bring in terms of fruit and flower. Some words to consider "To Dai Moto Kurashi" or "At the foot of the lighthouse it is dark" and "Setsu Do Motsu" or "Be strong and know when to bend".

George Parkanyi writes:

sir roger moore as ivanhoeEven after having 4 kids I don't feel qualified to dole out parental advice, but I will say that certain books (and by extension characters in those books) do make a major impression on one at different stages of life. I remember relating tremendously to Mika Waltari's The Egyptian. It wasn't until much much later– a few years before he died– that I found out that my mentor and friend Sheriffe was similarly impacted by that book. He was a fiercely independent (never married) and resourceful (never married) man, and half Egyptian himself in fact. He could (and did) recite the opening paragraph from memory. What resonated with me was that regardless of where I lived in the world, I would never be bound to one place– I would never have (or feel the need for) a "home". Even though I've lived in Ottawa most of my life and a little bit in Australia (my early childhood), I still feel that way. I could pick up tomorrow and move anywhere. My family means a lot to me, but my house or this city, absolutely nothing. Couldn't care less about them. The other book that had a strong impact on me was Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Not sure why; that was a long time ago. And the Jules Verne books of course earlier on.

Craig Mee comments:

tintinIf he goes into Politics… Ted Mack can be no better example. Aussie politics, has been waiting for someone to replace him ever since. He is the only person ever to have been elected and re-elected as an independent to local, state and federal government in Australia. During his term as mayor, Mack sold the mayoral Mercedes-Benz car, buying buses instead and instituting reforms to improve accountability. He retired two days before he was due to qualify for his parliamentary pension entitlements, as a statement against the excesses of public political office.

Sushil Kedia writes:

I would recommend Tintin, since Aubrey is to turn only 4 now. Of all the comic characters, the one that combines the ability to survive, penchant for resolving mystery, ability to befriend professor Calculus, over-come the Simpsons (who would be too many in any case in life ahead) and still make good use of them, varieties of fantasy, imagination all wrapped in an environment of light humor often reaching to shades of satire is the Adventures of Tintin. All of this is set in the backdrop of WWII, and would provide an intro to more serious war readings as Aubrey grows up.

Michael Pingo comments:

faradayI think Michael Faraday is name worthy of mention in your letter. Particularly, because during the peak of his popularity, so I read, he would give lectures on his latest discovery or invention closed off to London's elitist adults and instead would present to school children. The lectures came to be known as simply, "The Christmas Lectures" and the custom continues today.

How cool to master a topic by being able to present to young, curious minds. Not sure on Faraday's super religious bents, but none of us ever get it perfect…

Marion Dreyfus writes:

TinTin was and remains one of my all-time favorites for all the reasons stated, and because it has a richer-than-usual offering in terms of sophisticated vocabulary and story lines.


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