For every son or daughter there is a father; and every father leaves a mark on his children. Many fathers are there every day—their arms open, ready to teach and ready to help. Others have passed on, leaving their wisdom with their children who in turn teach their own children. And other fathers were never there, or not there enough, leaving another kind of mark on their children.
So on Father’s Day, we reflect on our dads and the impact they’ve had on our lives. Many of us tell stories about the ways our fathers made us better people, directly or indirectly. Over the years, a few of those stories have been told from the TED stage.
Nathaniel Kahn told the story of his father—famed architect Louis Kahn—through film, in the documentary My Architect. At TED2002, the younger Kahn spoke about the lessons he took away from a closer look at the life and work of his distant father.
“He felt the greatest things in life were accidental and perhaps not planned at all,” Kahn said.
He said he believed his father’s greatest work was the Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the National Parliament of Bangladesh, in Dhaka, a “remarkable” building built almost entirely by hand.
“I think they got a crane in the last year,” Kahn said.
But construction lasted for more than 20 years and Louis Kahn died before seeing it completed.
“Sometimes, the things we strive for in life, we never get to see finished,” Kahn said. “And that really struck me.”
Sarah Kaminsky’s father, she told the TEDxParis audience in 2010, was a forger.
“It all began for him during World War II, when at age 17 he found himself thrust into a forged documents workshop,” she said in translated French. “He quickly became the false papers expert of the Resistance.”
He didn’t stop until the 1970s, she said.
Once, Kaminsky said, when she was in high school, she attempted to hide a bad grade by forging her mother’s signature, not knowing her father, Adolfo, was a master forger.
“So, I got working,” she said. “I took some sheets of paper and started practicing, practicing, practicing, until I reached what I thought was a steady hand, and went into action. Later, while checking my school bag, my mother got hold of my school assignment and immediately saw that the signature was forged. She yelled at me like she never had before.”
Kaminsky cowered under the blankets in her bedroom, waiting for her father to return, “with some apprehension.”
When he came in the room he sat on the bed silent, Kaminsky tells the audience.
“… I pulled the blanket from my head, and when he saw me he started laughing,” she said. “He was laughing so hard, he could not stop and he was holding my assignment in his hand. Then he said, ‘But really, Sarah, you could have worked harder! Can’t you see it’s really too small?’”
But what her father truly taught her was the meaning of sacrifice, as he worked for 30 years at night, without payment to forge documents for those escaping injustice throughout the world—in Europe, South Africa and South America.
“I asked him whether, considering the sacrifices he had to make, he ever had any regrets.” Kaminsky said. “He said no. He told me that he would have been unable to witness or submit to injustice without doing anything. He was persuaded, and he’s still convinced that another world is possible—a world where no one would ever need a forger. He’s still dreaming about it.”
Written by Ryan Schill / Contributor
Ryan Schill is the assistant editor at the Center for Sustainable Journalism, specializing in investigative, feature and literary journalism. He tweets occasionally at @rpschill.