Mother and Son: Our Hopes for Our Children
In our vocation as wealth managers and financial advisors, we often work with clients to develop sound strategies for the financial support of the next generation: from college funding plans to trusts and other long-term estate planning intended to provide children, grandchildren, and even later descendants with resources to enable them to reach their potential for making a difference in the world. One of our greatest privileges, in fact, is getting to know individuals who have the farsightedness and the concern for others that are required to look into the future in order to build foundations for financial structures whose completion they may never live to see. Serving those with a vision for establishing a long-lasting legacy is one of the things that makes our work so meaningful.
Most of us have dreams, visions, and hopes for the future that center around our children and other young persons who are important in our lives. We want to save them from some of the struggles we experienced; we want them to be successful in their chosen efforts; we want them to have opportunities to explore the things they are passionate about. And perhaps most important, we want them to have the strength of character and resilience to withstand the inevitable challenges that life will put in their path.
The mother of the man who would become General Douglas MacArthur certainly had such dreams for her son. When MacArthur was still a cadet at West Point, the academy was facing serious scrutiny over the 1901 death of Cadet Oscar L. Booz, attributed by his family to brutal hazing. As a classmate of Booz, MacArthur was called to testify before Congress about the practices inflicted on freshman cadets, or “plebes.” He was deeply conflicted: to denounce fellow cadets would be considered “snitching”: a serious breach of the unwritten code that placed loyalty to one’s fellows above all. But to refuse to cooperate with the investigation could expose him to the risk of having his military career derailed before it even began. What should he do?
As the young MacArthur considered his dilemma, his mother sent him this poem:
Do you know that your soul is of my soul such a part
That you seem to be fiber and core of my heart?
None other can pain me as you, son, can do;
None other can please me or praise me as you.
Remember the world will be quick with its blame
If shadow or shame ever darken your name.
Like mother like son is saying so true
The world will judge largely of mother by you.
Be this then your task, if task it shall be
To force this proud world to do homage to me.
Be sure it will say, when its verdict you've won
She reaps as she sowed: "This man is her son!
Ultimately, MacArthur would testify as ordered, managing to discuss the facts of his experiences without casting blame on others. But his experiences certainly affected him; when he became superintendent of West Point in 1919, he curtailed many of the abuses inflicted upon plebes. Doubtless, as he did so—and likely as he faced many other difficult decisions during his storied career—Douglas MacArthur heard the words of his mother’s poem echoing in his memory.
Certainly, the most important thing that most parents hope for their children is that they might become persons of character and moral integrity. Part of that process comes by learning to recognize what matters most in life. As discussed in the book Buen Camino: What a Hike through Spain Taught Me about Investing and Life, taking time to focus on the present moment and to really notice the people, places, and events around us is an important way to gain a better perspective on life—on what really matters. And once they learn that important lesson, everyone—parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren—is well on the way to a better destination.
Bernhardt Wealth Management is dedicated to helping people of all ages and generations make better, more well-informed financial decisions. To learn more about the principles by which we conduct our business, click here to learn about The Bernhardt Way.