Just like Batman says, ‘It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.’
These are no ordinary dads.From passionate politician to Grammy-award winning musician, and from home design icon to national business news anchor, these four men put their superhero capes on every day to make a difference. After flying off from the home front, Rep. Joe Kennedy, Ben Harper, Nate Berkus and Blake Burman separately share the causes they care about, the work they love and the family issues on their mind leading up to Father’s Day (even if they may be sleep-deprived minds). >>
JOSEPH KENNEDY III
Congressman, 4th District of Massachusetts
Born into a political dynasty, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.) got his political start on a family campaign. After college at Stanford and time in the Peace Corps, he worked on his Uncle Ted’s 2006 U.S. Senate re-election bid. “People come up every day and usually say very nice things about my family, but sometimes not,” Kennedy told Town & Country in 2017. Now with two young children of his own, this Kennedy next gen-of-politics thinks about what’s right for his own family, while also weighing in on needs of low-income families. Kennedy specifically spoke to WL right after a House vote, waiting to get back to his wife Lauren and children James and Eleanor in Massachusetts at the end of the week. “The American dream still exists and the American dream is still alive if you have people that are willing to bet on American families,” he says, referring to the organization LIFT, a national nonprofit working to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty. The group celebrated its 20th anniversary at The Anthem at the Wharf in May. “It’s been an interest of mine … betting on every single American family, regardless of where they come from … knowing that if surrounded with the proper support, the proper mentoring, the proper opportunities that every single family has a pathway to recognize their potential.” He continues, “There are such enormous structural inequalities and unequal access to opportunity across this country … you gotta start somewhere.”
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
When Harper was 9 years-old, his father, the late Leonard Harper, took him to see Bob Marley and Peter Tosh at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, Calif. He says it was his most memorable concert ever. Forty years later, Harper has been a musical force as a singersongwriter and multi-instrumentalist for nearly half his life, producing 12 regular studio albums and taking home three Grammy awards. Most recently, in what he says “may very well be the most proud of anything musically I’ve ever been connected to,” he produced Mavis Staples’ new studio album “We Get By” and performed the first single “Change” with her on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last month.
Change has certainly been a constant for the father of five children, which includes his 2-year-old son Besso whom he shares with his wife Jaclyn Matfus. (Harper has four other children from previous relationships.) When WL spoke to him, he was spending a few days in the District, performing at the LIFT gala, and looking forward to getting some rest during the couple’s time away from their son.
Like Rep. Kennedy, Harper is passionate about the organization which helps parents and caregivers navigate their way through tough times. Long an anti-poverty advocate, he served as a LIFT ambassador and national board member – a commitment which has “definitely influenced more than a lyric or a song over the years,” he says. Now, the issue has become multi-generational, as Harper’s college-age son has interned for the group.
It’s a matter of “translating hope into actions and accomplishments for people at the very edge of society,” he says. Looking ahead, the L.A.-based dad is hoping for a way to help homeless women. “I’d like to see a special outlet for women and families … a heightened level of engagement with women and moms, and women in general on the streets.”
Interior Designer and Television Personality
“I grew up the son of an interior designer and we were taught to respect our parents’ things,” says Berkus, himself an “Interior Designer + Dad + Double Virgo,” as his Twitter bio states. That’s the humble version. The blue-eyed designer was showcased frequently on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” had two seasons of his series, “The Nate Berkus Show, and now shares a TV series with his husband Jeremiah Brent,in TLC’s “Nate & Jeremiah By Design.” The dad of two, Poppy and Oskar, was in Bethesda at the opening of Framebridge, a frame store for which he advises, and opened up to WL about fatherhood, design and giving back.
“We definitely have made certain decisions to make it easier to have two kids under four,” he says. “I think it’s really important to teach kids to respect stuff [that] it costs money. I don’t want ours to think just because their dads are on TV that they have free reign to buy whatever they want. That’s not how we’re raising our children.” Perhaps that lesson came after the brass orb incident. As he tells it, Poppy once picked up a brass orb and lifted it above their glass coffee table, shattering it in a thousand pieces.
And since we are at frame store, let’s be frank about kid art. “[Poppy’s] 75 masterpieces that she made at the kitchen table one afternoon with her babysitter … they’re going in the trash can unless one’s really great.”
However, not everything ends up in the trash. Berkus donates to homeless youth shelters in L.A., as well as to shelters in Tijuana, Mexico. “There’s always a place for this stuff when we don’t want it anymore and we do donate stuff to local charities.” That, or he says, “we have like 1,900 siblings … they’re all so psyched when I don’t want a lamp anymore.”
Washington Correspondent, Fox Business Network
During the day, Burman might be talking about tax cuts, tech stocks, job reports or trade tensions. But look closely when he’s on camera and you might see a little bit of baby goo. When his children, now ages 2 and 1, were newborns, Burman would “always have some drop of milk or spit or whatever” that he would randomly find on himself. He expands saying, “there are always little reminders of having young kids. Just the other day I realized, about seven hours in to the day, that one of my dress socks was inside out.”
For a dad who clocks in early mornings and jam-packed days, you can forgive him the dress socks. While he’s at the White House every morning by 7 a.m., the upside is being home for several hours at night before his kids go to bed “so we get good family time.” His travel schedule is “inevitable” but, he says, “I try to manage it as best as possible. I’m always on the first flight back, no matter how early in the morning.”
Speaking of early mornings and little sleep, the coffee talk is rampant. “Just the other day, my oldest said to us at night before we were about to put him to bed, ‘I want coffee!’ My wife and I just looked at each other and laughed. He picked up the whole coffee thing from watching us make it in the morning (and for the record, no, we don’t give our kids coffee).”
He fancies that for Father’s Day, “hopefully the boys get daddy a decent night of sleep. If not, that’s what coffee is for.”
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