By Michael Thompson
“It’s a powerful story and I really believe it has the power to bring people together,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee of “Dear Father, Dear Son,” New York Times best-selling author and syndicated radio host Larry Elder’s new book on the Fox News Channel’s “Huckabee” show Saturday night.
“For most of us, the holidays are a time to enjoy with our families, but for those who are estranged from their family members, the holiday’s can be tough. Larry Elder was bitter and angry with his father, but all that changed when he had an eight-hour conversation with his father,” said Huckabee.
Elder and his father hadn’t spoken for 10 years, but an eight-hour conversation when he was 25 with his dad provided clarity that allowed him to understand why his dad had acted as he did.
“You were estranged from your father for 10 years. What was it that happened between you two?” Huckabee asked.
“He was one of the first black Marines, grew up in Jim Crow South, and didn’t know his biological father and he worked a number of jobs to support his family that he only slept for about four hours a night for 10 years. I didn’t talk to him for 10 years after we had a fight when I was 15,” said Elder.
“When I was 25, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. I was living in Ohio – he in Los Angeles – and I had so many things I just wanted to unload on him,” said Elder. “My goal was to call him an SOB, and have about a five-minute conversation. When I unloaded on him on all the things that bothered me about him, we ended up having an eight-hour conversation.”
Huckabee asked Elder who was it that instigated the conversation that fateful day, and Elder said, “It was my idea to have the conversation. I came to appreciate that no human being ever worked as hard as him and to understand why my dad was made all the time. When he was a little boy, he thought the woman that raised him was his mother, it was actually his grandmother. He didn’t know who his dad was, and he only got the last name ‘Elder’ because it was one of his mother’s surnames from a series of boyfriends.”
Asked by Huckabee how his relationship changed after having the conversation, Elder said, “After reconciliation – we went from not speaking each other for 10 years, we ended up becoming best friends. He became sensitive and emotional, and I began to understand where he was coming from. He taught me no matter how hard you work, something bad is going to happen, and it’s about how you react to this incident that makes you a man.”
Elder replied, “I’m hoping “Dear Father, Dear Son” will give two lessons: out-of-wedlock birthrates in this country are so high today (75 percent of black kids; 50 percent of Hispanics; and 25 percent of white kids), and so many children don’t have a male role model to look up to. What do you do when you don’t have a male role model in the house? [My dad] had no male role model – You should know the difference between right and wrong. No matter how the cards of life our dealt, it’s up to you to play those cards.”
The second lesson is about reconciliation, said Elder.
“You never know what’s inside someone with whom you are estranged from: what’s the downside in telling someone how you really feel. The worst is that you clarify your positions. The best thing is that you realize you are fighting over something inconsequential.”
The interview will air again tonight at 8 p.m. on a replay of “Huckabee” on the Fox News Channel.
Elder will also appear on “The Tavis Smiley Show” on PBS next week. A date is still being determined for this sit-down between Elder and Smiley.
On Monday, Nov. 26, Elder will be a guest on the nationally syndicated “Geraldo Rivera Radio” program at 11:20 a.m. Eastern. Then on Wednesday, Nov. 28, Elder will appear on the “Jesse Lee Peterson Show” at 11:05 a.m. Eastern to talk about the book he has called “a 247-page apology to his Marine father that he didn’t understand until he was 25 years old.”
“Stunning … a wonderful read … a page-turner … a handbook for life.” Those words of advance praise from another celebrated author scarcely convey just how powerfully mesmerizing is the latest book by Elder, the New York Times best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.
Published by WND Books, “Dear Father, Dear Son” is a personal memoir of Elder’s troubled – one might even say tortured – relationship with his father, and the astonishing outcome that develops when Elder, at long last, confronts him.
Says Elder: “A man’s relationship with his father – every boy, every man lucky enough to have a father in his life has to figure that out. My own father? I thought I knew him – even though he seldom talked about himself. And what I knew I hated – really, really hated. Cold, ill-tempered, thin-skinned, my father always seemed on the brink of erupting. Scared to death of him, I kept telling myself to find the courage to ‘stand up to him.’ When I was fifteen, I did.” After that, said Elder, “We did not speak to each other for 10 years.”
“And then we did – for eight hours.”
The result can’t be described. It has to be experienced.
As reflected in the book’s subtitle – “Two Lives … Eight Hours” – one extraordinary, all-day conversation between Elder and his long-estranged father utterly transformed their relationship. It is no exaggeration to say the book will likewise transform readers.
Indeed, calling it “stunning,” Burt Boyar, co-author of the bestselling autobiography on Sammy Davis, Jr., says of “Dear Father, Dear Son”: “Above all it is a wonderful read. I am tempted to call it a page-turner but in my case I hated to turn every page because that meant I was getting closer to the end and I did not want it to end. … The book is filled with emotion. It is, of course, a handbook for life. I guess it is that above all things. Any kid who reads it and follows the advice of how to live his life just has to come out well.”
“Dear Father, Dear Son” is the story of one man discovering a son he never really knew. And of the son finding a man, a friend, a father who had really been there all along.
Elder, a “firebrand libertarian” according to “Daily Variety,” has been the subject of profiles by both CBS’ “60 Minutes” and ABC’s “20/20.” His previous best-selling books – “The 10 Things You Can’t Say in America,” “Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America” and “What’s Race Got to Do with It? Why it’s Time to Stop the Stupidest Argument in America” – all have met with critical acclaim.