Growing up, life with my dad was interesting. While we knew him as just “Dad”, the rest of the state knew “Hunt Downer.”
Dad was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1976. He served as the state representative for district 52 until 2004. During his years in the House, he served as Speaker Pro Temp and Speaker of the House. He also dedicated a large portion of his life to military service, retiring as a Major General in the Louisiana Army National Guard. His chosen career as an attorney also kept his name out there quite a bit.
But when he was home, despite all those fancy titles, he was just Dad.
As an adult, I realize so much of my work ethic and how I am as a leader comes from lessons I learned from my dad.
Do things for others for the right reasons, even more when no one is looking.
Acts of kindness should come from the heart. You should never need recognition for the things that you do for others. Author Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I’m pretty sure Dad would agree with that statement.
He learned this one from his step-father while growing up on a farm in Bayou Blue. A good day of honest hard work on the farm goes a long way in defining your work ethic for the rest of your life. Those cows and the garden don’t care if it’s a weekend!
Dad’s career choices and life of service to others kept him away from home quite a bit. But maybe part of the reason I don’t remember him not being around, was because when he WAS home, he was present. My memory is full of happiness when it comes to fun times with Dad. Fun times at home: playing hide and seek in the dark house, riding four-wheelers, and riding the big tractor to cut the grass; and fun times at his jobs: drawing pictures at his office with the crayons he kept in a drawer just for us, going to the State Capitol each year as soon as school let out for the summer, and joining him on various military bases, dressed in camouflage just like him.
Never stop learning.
Dad is a graduate of Terrebonne High School, Nicholls State University, Loyola Law School, and the U.S. Army War College. Despite his formal education, he reminds us most of the lessons he values most, he has learned from those around him. Always listen; you never know the wisdom others are trying to impart upon you. While the books are responsible for those degrees, his most important lessons were taught to him by those who walked with him. As a lawyer in the courtroom, it’s more than knowing the law; it’s paying attention and listening.
Do hard things.
Never let fear hold you back. Sure, you might lose the race, but you will gain so much insight into yourself and those around you.
It’s important to know how to struggle. That struggle will always drive you to succeed. Dad wasn’t always on the path that led him to where he is today. His first semester in college ended the way mine did: in failure. After a summer of hard manual labor, he buckled down and earned the degree that propelled him in the right direction. That taste of failure kept him pushing forward.
Remember that God the Father hears your prayers. He is the one in control of everything. Once you give your life to God, everything is possible.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and father-figures out there!