If you ever doubt the power of what we do as dads, consider this: when Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, was recently asked about the best advice he ever got, he answered with a little homage to his father’s gift to him:
The power of unconditional love. I mean, there is no power on earth like unconditional love. And I think that if you offered that to your child, I mean you’re 90 percent of the way home. There may be days when you don’t feel like it, it’s not uncritical love, that’s a different animal, but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life. That takes you a long, long way. And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it’s going to make for a better human being.
It’s worth paying attention to because Warren Buffett is, well, a very good human being. I’ve never quite understood his parsimonious personal life, and I don’t usually sing the loudest praises of the übercapitalists. But Buffett’s $600 billion challenge is not just a pledge drive, it’s a direct challenge to the growing solipsism and avarice of the superrich. Not only that, but his Fortune op-ed about his personal commitment to give away 99% of his wealth was remarkably humble; he compared his pledge unfavorably to the many smaller acts of charity Americans perform every day:
Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.
This is not to say that your son is going to be a billionaire. He’s not. He’s going to struggle to make mortgage payments. He’s going to drink a little too much on the weekends. He’s going to spend much of his life waiting for that promotion that is not gonna come. But maybe, just maybe, because of your good parenting, he will be a good person. And that will be at least one thing he has in common with Warren Buffett.