Father's Day: Brad Meltzer on dads who changed history

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Image Credit: Eric Ogden

I never really cared about Father’s Day. Even when I became a father, I didn’t want to make a big deal — that is, until my own dad died.

Thankfully, I was lucky enough to tell my father how grateful I was for all he’d done throughout my life. But there’s nothing like the death of a parent to make you really examine their impact.

Over the past year, as I was researching a new series of children’s books that I was writing for my own kids, I took a look at the childhoods of American heroes like Amelia Earhart and Rosa Parks.

Do you know how Amelia Earhart got to ride on her first airplane? It was because of her father.

Her dad paid ten dollars to a pilot named Frank Hawks. [You can see this scene from "I Am Amelia Earhart" below.] For ten minutes, Hawks flew her through the sky and out over the Pacific Ocean. By the time she was 200 or 300 feet off the ground, young Amelia Earhart knew one thing:

She had to fly.

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In the case of Rosa Parks, she credited her grandfather (and her mother) with teaching her to respect herself and to expect respect from others.

Even as a young girl, Rosa was tough. She used to stay awake with her grandfather, who had his gun in hand, waiting for the KKK to come attack. In her autobiography, she wrote that she wanted to see that fight.

In any life, so much of what we later accomplish (or destroy) will come from the seeds near our family tree. It was true in my own life. Before he died, my father would go into the local Barnes & Noble and say, in his raspy New Yorker voice, “Yes, I’m wondering if you have the new Brad Meltzer book? He’s my favorite author in the world!” And the clerk would say, “Mr. Meltzer…we know he’s your son. We know.”

I still know.

Years ago, someone wisely told me, we all have many fathers in our lives. So this Father’s Day, go and thank that dad, that grandfather, that step-dad who was there for you.

It’s part of the history that matters most: Your history.

Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling thriller writer of The Inner Circle, and the host of Decoded on the History Channel. His non-fiction children’s books include I Am Amelia Earhart, I Am Abraham Lincoln, and his newest, out Tuesday, I Am Rosa Parks.

Check out the new trailer featuring Meltzer’s “Ordinary People Change the World” storybooks:

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