Thursday, December 16, 2010

What’s in a name? Everything.

This past weekend, disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s oldest son, Mark, took his life in a dramatic fashion. He hung himself with a dog’s leash from a ceiling pipe in his living room, while his toddler son slept in a nearby bedroom. No doubt, Mark Madoff had been deeply troubled for some time since he turned his father over to law enforcement almost two years ago from the day of his death. Indeed, his dreadful end was yet another poignant example of how the sins of a father can impact his children and his grandchildren as well.

Ironically, a few weeks ago, I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about the problems that Mark encountered trying to find work in the financial services industry. Despite decades of experience and his considerable connections, no Wall Street firm would touch him. There is a proverb in the Bible that says, “A good name is more desirable than riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold.” Unfortunately, Mark was a “Madoff” and, in the minds of many, his name was now worthless, useful only as an expletive or the punchline of a late night comedian’s joke.

I think that there is an important lesson from the Madoff’s family tragedy that all dads should heed and consider daily, especially when they are tempted to behave immorally. The very first and most valuable gift that any father will ever give to a child is his name. But, his name only has worth to his child if it reflects of a life that is lived with integrity and good character. Remember, good character is more easily kept than restored. So too is a good name…


  1. Important observation. Thanks. I write about generations and fathering. The elders, the wise, the partriarchs, at least the good ones, tend to be missing from our current culure. I loved The Duke, but we've a little too much of John Wayne's independence. We tend to do "it" (like the crucial role of fathering) alone when the greatest resource MAY be the father of the father struggling. He's no longer in the tent next door (Old Testament and developing culure reference) or in the nearby farm (Little House on the Prairie reference). Mark and Bernie were apparently close. But, CLOSE AND MODELLING GOOD makes all the difference.

  2. There's a saying in Kenya (from a child to good parents)... "I am who I am because you are who you are". In other words, legacy counts. During dowry ceremonies, brides from good families (i.e. good names) command a higher bride price. There's obviously something to it - something for all fathers to think about.


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