Thoughts on Father's Day

A few days before I was born, NBC News interviewed my father, then-Senator John F. Kennedy. Reflecting the typical mindset of 1950s America, the interviewer asked my father, "If you were to have a son, would you encourage a political career for him?" Exhibiting the visionary spirit that would soon inspire the world in so many ways, my father answered, "Yes, and I hope if I had a daughter I might encourage her to play some part. I don't think this should be confined to men only." You can watch the interview here.

In Japan, "womenomics" is the talk of the nation. Much of the discourse has focused on the needs and potential contributions of working mothers, but Father's Day weekend is an appropriate time to celebrate fathers and remind ourselves that work-life balance isn't just a women's issue.

In his book Fatherneed, Yale University child psychologist Kyle Pruett notes that children whose fathers are deeply involved in their lives do better in school. Toddlers with involved fathers are better prepared to handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling than children whose fathers are less involved. And young men need dads who are present as they embark on their own life's journey.

In other words, society benefits in tangible ways when fathers have the time to invest in the lives of their children.

And society benefits in other ways, too. When men are more involved at home, women are able to go back to school, or start a business. If a woman knows that her husband can help take care of their sick child, or fix dinner for the kids, she can seek out career opportunities. If Japanese women participate more actively in the economy, GDP will rise, benefitting everyone in Japan, including the employers of the men who may need to take time off once in a while to take care of their children.

When my father was interviewed back in 1957, he was already thinking about the society of the future built on equality and opportunity for all citizens: men and women, black and white. Many of the men who have had a major positive influence on the role of women have had daughters, and I don't think it was an accident. When a man asks, "How would I want a boss to treat my daughter?" or "How would I want a co-worker to behave toward my mother?" or "Won't my grandchildren be better off if their father is able to spend more time with them?" we all win.

Happy Father's Day. Enjoy your day.