Written by Christina Dutton, Fred's daughter, and remembered at the Cosmos Club, Washington, DC, July 14, 2005
Cosmos Club, Washington, DC July 14, 2005
Education was always very important to my father and he encouraged it in any and all forms. Therefore what I would like to talk about today is what a great teacher Fred Dutton was, and some of the lessons I will take from him
How he lived his life was a great example for me to learn from, but he did not teach by example alone. My friends in college would laugh when I got a letter from my dad -- as his letters were closer to White House talking points than a traditional “note from home”. They were at least 2-3 pages single-spaced, typed affairs, that covered advice on how to prepare emotionally for exams to the appropriate ratio of study hours to party time. I was always a little terrified to open these and if my allowance checks had not also been enclosed who knows what pearls of wisdom I might have missed. But there was wisdom inside as well as love and insight, not to mention half of the Washington Post cut up into must read articles. I will miss his letters and cards. And to honor them and him, I would like to present some of the lessons learned as typical “Fred style” Talking Points:
POINT #1: Live life
I am still so much in awe of the breadth of my father’s accomplishments. --
In the days after he passed away many of you called and sent us emails with beautiful thoughts and touching memories about my dad. Reading all these remarkable emails and letters each day made me realize how many lives he touched. The breadth was remarkable. It made me realize what was so great about my father’s life was really quite simple – it was a life well lived.
POINT #2: Be Persistent
If there was something he wanted he would go after it, with drive, determination and a stubborn persistence that whatever it was he sought it should be his.
But not everything about Fred’s life was exactly planned, and I believe one of his greatest strengths was actually his ability to seize the opportunities that he hadn’t planned on. When opportunity knocked, he not only opened the door, but he greeted it with so much enthusiasm that he could turn it into something even grander and better.
POINT #3: Welcome Change and Be Willing to Follow It
His example taught me to appreciate change because you never know where life is supposed to take you. In 1992 I had just finished college and started the year working at the DNC, I finished the year with my first offer to decorate a house. When I took that decorating job, I remember thinking what was I doing with my life - this was not the plan, this was not why I had gone to college to study history and political science. My father simply asked me how did I know this isn’t what I wanted – you can’t know till you try it. So here I am over 10 years later still in interior design and as the TV show says -- apparently father does indeed know best.
POINT #4: Be Passionate
My father may have been a behind the scenes type of guy but that was never due to any timidity. My father always pursued all that he undertook in life with great passion.
There are so many examples I could give about this -- it truly was one of the most defining characteristics about my Dad but I have chosen books. My father loved books. He would read anywhere from 2-5 simultaneously and would probably finish more than 50 a year. Even though he had his favorites he would almost always fell in love with whatever book he was currently reading and that book would temporarily become one of the greatest books ever written. If in fact a book did make it onto his “FAVORITE” list he would go out and buy multiple copies and send to each of his kids as well as a few friends copies of this ‘must-read’. Finally I do not know how to describe this but my dad did not just read a book - he would possess it. He was incapable of reading a book without highlighting, underlining intensely, writing notes in the margin, you name it he would do it to a book so that in the end he absolutely knew everything in the book, yet no one else would be able to read that copy EVER AGAIN because of all the markings.
POINT #5: Be Flexible
Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Small Minds was a favorite quote of my Dad’s. There were times I truly believe that my father was indeed a Devil’s Advocate in a past life. He could debate any side of any argument. Many of you might think that a great talent. Trust me great for him; terrible for his family. My father would bring up some political issue or other at dinner for us to discuss. He would make a case for one side of the issue. If I agreed with him and added some of my own points on the topic to the discussion, he would then do a complete 180 turn about – with a smile and an evil gleam in his eye he would start to argue the exact opposite of what he had said 10 minutes earlier he believed with all his heart. Worse, he would say, he never ever could POSSIBLY HAVE supported the other side. This was my father idea of fun as he was a great believer in process and I had the unfortunate luck to believe in ideals.
I believe what my father wanted me to learn is do not get so drawn into ideas that they control you – be willing to believe new things, try new directions and go to different places.
POINT #6: Use You Own Definitions
When I was growing up DC really was a company town and politics equaled power. I always wondered why my father never ran for office himself. I found my answer reading his oral history on Democratic Campaigns and Controversies 1954-1966. He talks about his own “power needs” and that they are better defined as needs for effect on a situation rather than public adoration. Knowing who you are and what will satisfy you is critical to a fulfilled life. Personally I am still working on this one but to see how my father enjoyed being involved at the highest levels of politics his whole life on his own terms gives me hope.
POINT #7: A Sense Of Your Own Style
Last but not least I would like to end with Fred’s sense of style. My Dad knew who and what he was. He liked himself and he embraced what made him unique. This is not to say he did not have insecurities, he absolutely did. He just knew what they were and over time I think he even came to be amused by them. So to conclude I would like to mention some of the things that, for me, defined my father and his style and will forever remind me how much I love him:
But most importantly…
· His Laugh – growing up my parents threw many parties. I would sit upstairs doing homework and listen to the sounds from the party. Above all the white noise I would hear my Dad’s unique laugh and IT would always make me smile