In honor of Father’s Day, this past week on our Tamara Leigh’s TREND ON show with Heidi Feemster on the Linked Local Network, I had the privilege to speak with two pretty amazing men who humbly wield wide influence.
Dan Khabie reaches a global audience as a Linkedin Influencer content publisher. He’s also the Founder and CEO of Digitaria, a successful 1997 start-up “rooted in the disciplines of design, data, marketing and technology” that’s now owned by WPP and aligned with JWT.
Mark Papadas, Author, Speaker, Professional Trainer, and Founder of I Am 4 Kids is exponentially reaching a generation one kid at a time by early intervention into empowering youth to own their identity. Mark’s influence will likely be fully realized in the years ahead as kids whose lives have been changed for the better through the I Am 4 Kids program grow up and create their own spheres of influence.
The common theme between the two guests, who both are also fathers, is what privilege can do for a kid.
Dan, in addition to his admitted privilege (as defined as an honor and opportunity) to have a voice on Linkedin to tell his story and to share what and whom has impacted his life, also admits to being born into privilege.
As one of five kids, Dan’s sibling’s accomplishment, in addition to his own notable success, range from education at the finest universities like Harvard and Brown, to professional as an orthopedic surgeon for major sports teams in both the MLB and NBA, as well as a fashion entrepreneur, and an attorney in the family. One would think Dan’s grew up with a silver spoon.
“I do come from a family of privilege,” Dan said, “but we didn’t have a lot of money. Privilege, to me, was to be born into a family full of love and confidence… we had the most important elements – a sense of care and sense of hope.
What I learned at a very young age from my dad, I’ve been able to put into my own company like value pricing, transparency, and corporate social responsibility. What you can learn from your father… what are the things that make you who you are… At its core, your parents have such a huge influence.
When my father came to the U.S. from Lebanon he had nothing,” Dan added, “and so he became a tailor [which Dan wrote about in his Linkedin post, Tailor-Made Service] . He learned how to take his business knowledge from Lebanon and apply that to his work here in the U.S. in order to provide for our family.”
Dan’s father was so committed to his vision to bring his family to the United States from Lebanon that he would go to a pier daily to see who he could meet, to find that person who could help make the move happen — and his persistence paid off.
In working with immigrant families for over ten years, also privileged to learn of their cultures, I saw firsthand this nurturing home environment and sacrifice by parents so that their children could succeed. As is often the case when immigrants come to America, the cultural and language differences limit what the working parents are able to do. In spite of that, Dan’s father created a business that centered around home with a modest upbringing giving his children the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
“Our father taught us success and service, but our mother taught us drive.” Dan said he would be remiss if he did not give credit to his mother as the driving force behind the dream. Dan was blessed to be born into a family committed to each other and their children.
Privilege like that is more difficult than ever for children to find today.
For my own five children, mine was the Dream too. It took ten years in the making for my architect husband and me to turn an ugly one-bedroom farmhouse into our country haven where adventure filled our yard and love and security dwelled within. My young children also knew a father present in the home working his profession in an office that was a child’s delight of colored pencils and markers, then computer programs as the industry technology transitioned from drawing board to desktop.
This was intentional privilege to foster creativity and provide a foundation for our children to grow into young adults who would go out and influence their world for the better.
Just when we had realized our dreams for both our homestead and business, in a series of complicated and unfortunate events, the dream quickly changed to a nightmare with the end result being a family divided, a dad relocated across the country, and a home lost.
My once “privileged” (secure, sheltered, loved) children became like the ever-increasing number of kids, who are growing up in single-mother head of household families.
According to The Washington Times article, Fathers disappear from households across America, Big increase in single mothers in December 2012, “In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade… Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3 live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.”
While I agree with Michele Weldon of the Huff Post that children in homes without fathers are not categorically disadvantaged, I do know that having raised five on my own, I can only be the very best mother to my children, and not their dad, though often times it meant trying to fulfil the role of father as best I could. Thankfully the creative thread holding our family together also included a healthy sense of humor and love for funny, so while tears and challenges were plentiful, resiliency and laughter became as much their legacy as the past enchanted days of the farmhouse.
Out of this personal experience, it is all the more reason I appreciated my other TREND ON guest, Mark Papadas, and his commitments to kids at a young age through his I Am 4 Kids outreach. Mark’s mission, that came to him in an epiphany when talking with a coach praising his own children, is to equip and empower kids in the context of school and other arenas, with the necessary tools for them to create their own sense of privilege and place in this often times challenging world.
Just three years young, the revolutionary I Am 4 Kids has grown into an invaluable community resource by pragmatically addressing the need for funding the non-profit without taxing already limited school budgets by engaging outside sponsors.. All about creating a win-win for all involved, I Am 4 Kids provides schools with the program implementation and follow-up while also promoting local businesses through their sponsorship of the program.
Win-win sounds a bit like the “nobody loses” kind of political correctness often associated with promoting self-esteem among young people, which isn’t a bad thing,” says Mark, “but I AM 4 Kids is different than self-esteem. It’s about kids claiming their identities of who they are and who they want to be based on intrinsic human drive for survival by persistence.”
Mark also says, “When asked, how kids fill in the blank to the simple phrase, ‘I am… ‘ is very telling. Over 50% of second through fifth graders finished that thought with a negative trait or characteristics.” Admittedly that’s a questions a lot of grown ups have a hard time answering positively, perhaps because there weren’t such innovative programs in place prior to three years ago.
To change these negative scripts, Mark took an inspired “stream of consciousness” from what was his own loving and sound parenting principles, organized them into a business model and 501(c) (3) non-profit and then implemented them through proven learning practices with cutting edge technology into the I Am 4 Kids program, earning the 2012 Chicago Innovation Award.
In the spirit of social corporate responsibility bring it home and ask those kids around you, in your sphere of influence how they would fill in the “I am…” blank. If the answers surprise you (and not in a good way) and you want to get involved — or even if you’re fortunate to be among the already empowered kids, Mark says they’re actively seeking corporate sponsors and people wanting to contribute their own positive influence.
As two fundamental believers in the human spirit, Dan Khabie and Mark Papadas operate out of a place of privilege, whether by birth or conviction, inspiring all of us as to what is possible.
And now, in celebration of my sometimes role as dad, I’m going to treat myself to a round of golf and a cigar. Well, maybe not the cigar. Happy Father’s Day.