"I picture our kids bravely taking moral stands on global warming and the polar bears, refusing to “sell out,” get a job or learn anything useful. I think of what I could write to them about their parents’ work. I would start with a short phrase from Hart Crane, the genius poet.
“O, brilliant kids, I was a fool just like you. I was in my mid-40s before I properly thanked my father for his decades of hard work — paying for me to laze around in the cars he bought me, to get drunk in the frat house whose dues he paid, to spend the afternoons with my girlfriends looking at trees and rivers while Pop worked and got so anxious that he took up smoking three packs of Kents a day.
“O, brilliant kids, you get to put on the garments of the morally righteous and upstanding while your parents work — because mothers work now and always have worked — and your parents must say, ‘Yes, sir,’ or ‘No, sir,’ to those who hire them. O, golden children, you get to talk about how you’ll never ‘sell out,’ and meanwhile your parents stay up late in torment, thinking of how they can pay your tuition. Because, brilliant kids, work (business) involves exhaustion and eating humble pie and going on even when you think you can’t. And you are the beneficiaries of it in your gilded youth.
“Be smarter than Ben Stein ever was. Be a better person than I ever was. Right now, today, thank your parents for working to support you. Don’t act as if it’s the divine right of students. Get right up in their faces and say, ‘Thank you for what you do so I can live like this.’ Say something. Say it, so that when they’re at O’Hare or Dallas-Fort Worth and they’ve just learned that their flight is canceled and they’ll have to stay overnight at the airport, they will know you appreciate them.
“Get it in your heads that if you throw away your moral duties to your parents, you are thieves. You were born on third base and your parents put you there, and you think you hit a triple. It’s not true. It’s time to give back.
“ `Attention must be paid,’ as Arthur Miller said. So start now, and make it a habit to be grateful to your parents. Say you’re grateful and mean it. Do it now, however young or old you are. Do it on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, every day.”
How I wish I had done more of it. Now it’s too late — but it’s never too early."