"The real man," Teddy Roosevelt once said, "combines courage with tenderness, and a contempt for bullies and oppressors." Such a man is my father, Leo Regan, a man who has dedicated his life to upholding his principles, to expressing outrage at the mistreatment of others and he's done it all with a gentleness and strength when needed.
He was a man who loathed Richard Nixon, yet he cried when he fell from power, for he found no satisfaction in another man's pain. Outrage, yes, at what he perceived as unjust, but he never felt any malice. My father is a kind and strong man and for that I am grateful. I had a chance, this week, to think about some of the other fathers I've known, and some of the great fathers from the big screen. My favorite, of course, will always be Atticus Finch, the father who taught his children by his actions, the true meaning of goodness and justice.
And then, of course, I think of what Sigmund Freud once said, "I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection."
And that protection may come from the good men who may not be born fathers, but become them.
"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." That's what the poet Anne Sexton had to say. And though our fathers may be tragically flawed, it is sometimes their imperfections that instill in us our own humanity.
And then, of course, there are fathers of honor - men who temper their strength and bravery with their heart. I think of Maximus, the Gladiator. Strong, dignified, quiet. Fighting bravely for his country without relishing violence, a man relentless in avenging himself against a brutal tyrant, but generous in victory. A man whose only goal was to find his way home.
The real fathers I love most are the ones not created by Hollywood talent - but men who were formed, in so many ways, by the things they've bumped into in life heartbreaking, challenging, sometimes awe-inspiring experiences that made these men great fathers. I'd like to honor them tonight for their manly devotion to their children and to thank them for their inspiration to us all.
Mark Rodino, my trainer, was walking home from a football game with his mother when they were both tragically hit by a car. He was in a coma and in the hospital for months before he woke up to discover his mother had died. For years no one spoke of it, and he suffered in silence, but when he became a father, he was transformed. Lily and Luke, his two children, may be too young to understand his devotion, but when he told me that he sometimes checks them 4 or 5 times a night, just to make sure they are still breathing, I understood.
And then there's Bernard Kerik, the police commissioner of New York City, again bruised and strengthened by his own heartbreaking childhood of abandonment and challenge. And yet, he grew up to become a father whose heroism in the outside world is known to many, but whose true heroism is his capacity to truly love and honor his children, Joe and Celine. They have a father who has, what Teddy Roosevelt, the first police commissioner of New York City, said a real man and father needs - courage and tenderness - in ample supply.
And finally I'd like to close tonight with one of my favorite poems written by a father for his child, a father who happens to be the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. It's called, "A Cradle Song" and I know its sentiments are shared by all of the fathers I've spoken of tonight and by a few of you.
The angels are stooping
Above your bed;
They are weary of trooping
With the whimpering dead.
God's laughing in heaven
To see you so good;
The sailing seven
Are gay with his mood.
I sigh that kiss you,
For I must own
That Ishall miss you
When you have grown.
Happy Father's Day to all of the great men out there who father.