Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My inheritance

By Donald J. Boudreaux

My dad died on April 25. Adrian "Buddy" Boudreaux was only 73, but those years were very happy ones for him. That happiness came from Dad's natural good cheer and contentment; it did not come from money. Dad never had much money.

He dropped out of school in the sixth grade, but as an adult he earned his GED. When he married my late mother, at the age of 22, he was a bus driver in New Orleans. Dad soon left that job to work as a pipe fitter at Avondale Shipyards, which at the time was one of that city's largest employers.

The typical American who would learn of the financial resources now passing down to my three siblings and me would say that we have virtually no inheritance. That's true only financially. In fact, the inheritance that our parents left to us, while minuscule in terms of dollars, is enormous and valuable beyond measure. My meaning is best conveyed by these excerpts from a letter that I wrote to my dad when he retired from the shipyard in January 2001.

"A man's worth can be measured in many different ways. Most of these ways are foolish.
"Is a man's worth measured by his wealth? Hardly. History is littered with wealthy people who are scoundrels. I meet lots of wealthy people whom I detest -- whom I don't wish to be near or whom I pity because they are shallow.

"Is a man's worth measured by his power? Absolutely not. Hitler and Stalin and Mao had enormous power. But they are among the scummiest of history's scumbags. Powerful people are almost always detestable creeps.

"Is a man's worth measured by his education? No. Many people with advanced college degrees (and I know lots of them!) lack decency and generosity. Too many are crybabies, more childish than mature and more clever than wise.

"Too few men are truly great. Greatness comes from within and is often invisible to eyes unfamiliar with a great person. A man is great only if he is responsible; only if he is a loyal and loving husband and father and friend; only if he teaches his children and grandchildren properly, not only with words but by example; only if he is free of envy and spite and pettiness.


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