Last fall, Notre Dame University student Michael Bradley delivered the closing speech of freshman orientation to the students of Dillon Hall, the largest dorm on campus. Here’s part of what he advised his younger peers:
I told them that their goal for college should be to leave Notre Dame as true men. And I told them that following the world’s ways of manhood (especially the world’s vision of male sexuality), far from being the gateway into maturity, would be the surest way to remain little boys, closed in upon themselves in a perpetuation of self-centeredness and self-indulgence, unable to move beyond themselves and lay down their lives for others. The manliest man I know, I said, died on a cross.
Well said, Mr. Bradley.
So well said, in fact, that a few days after his speech, the university dorm commissioner told Bradley that the freshman in their follow-up survey cited overwhelmingly his speech as their favorite part of freshman orientation at Notre Dame.
“I don’t know what lasting effect, if any, my words (which were certainly not original) had on them,” Bradley said in an editorial he recently penned. “But I do know that they heard what every young man in this unwell world desperately wants to hear: a challenge, a call to be more than what the world asks of them and their manhood.”
The column that Bradley, a philosophy and theology senior, wrote is a take on this country’s “Fatherhood Crisis.” In it, he uses some examples of experiences on campus to help make his point.
And that point is, writing in Ethika Politika, that before the Fatherhood Crisis came the Manhood Crisis.
Here are portions of Bradley’s well-written piece, including his campus anecdotes:
In thus diagnosing the “fatherhood crisis” by referring to the meta-consequences of men being poor fathers, I think that such well-intentioned folks often miss the more fundamental and prior point of problem: Men are being poor men. The fatherhood crisis is the fruit of a “manhood crisis.” You can’t make men better fathers by calling them to be better fathers. You can make men better fathers by calling them to be better men. The solution and the problem lie far in advance of fatherhood …
The fatherhood crisis is the result of “the world” hijacking the ideal of manhood and perverting it. Seeing that the boy’s central desire is fertile for exploitation itself, the world has constructed an ideal of manhood that revolves around the acquiring of possessions, self-direction and an independence that eschews commitments and lasting obligations to anything outside the self.
During my time competing on the track and field team at Notre Dame, my teammates and I had to sit through a talk each spring about sexual assault and related issues. The sports psychologist who spoke to us would reference Jeffrey Marx’s 2004 book Season of Life, which describes three “Bs” of the socialization of masculinity (babes, booze and billfolds), on his way to enumerating his own “10 Bs” for us: ballparks, bad words, bases, banter, bar-bells, beat, bad-a**, bling and benevolent sexism.
Such a list immediately hits home for any guy who has ever graced a locker room as very near the tragic truth of how young boys view what it means to be a man. And immediately it becomes apparent that when young boys, adolescents, teenagers and college students think that manhood consists in these things, poor husband-hood is just an exchange of vows down the road, and poor fatherhood wants only for the creation of a new and precious human life. …
… our culture tricks men into believing that they are achieving just those ideals while simultaneously poisoning them with just those things that breed slavery to the passions, lack of self-possession, unreliability, instability, self-centeredness, cowardice, fear of true challenges and an inability to commit to others: pornography, sexual promiscuity, “bachelorhood,” a-religiousness, intemperate indulgence, complete emotional autonomy…the 10 Bs. Our culture does a remarkably efficient job of hooking boys on the ideals of manhood. It just offers the wrong truths. …
The first step to restoring a sound culture of fatherhood is to rekindle and reorient the innate longing for authentic manhood that all boys feel; to disabuse them of the cultural lie and restore (not obliterate) the desires that have been channeled into the 10 Bs.
Click here to read Bradley’s full column.