Veteran of Young Men’s Work Comments on Men, Boys and the Landscape of Fatherless Homes
Brad Leslie, of Vancouver Canada, first did his Sterling Men’s Weekend in March 1988, and he hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal ever since. A veteran of countless men’s divisions’ productions and events over the years, Leslie co-founded the Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend, a modern rites of passage that allows young men to safely voice their concerns about becoming a man, and acquire leadership skills necessary for a responsible adulthood. He also works with the KingMaker’s a council of leaders (MDI and non-MDI) of young men’s events around the United States and Canada. Who better to speak on our theme of “fathers and families” than a man who hears directly from those boys needing their fathers or a father-figure?
What’s is the real landscape out there in our society with fatherless homes?
It may sound cheesy, but there are no real men out there anymore. This is because there’s no real models for men, and no one is training young men to be real men. The first one to do that training is the dad. And when the dad is not in the house, the young man does not have a model of what the real man could be or should be. The second layer of support for the young man is the uncles or mentors – an adult man putting his arm around a shoulder of a young guy saying, “Come on buddy let’s go fishing,” or “This is how you change a tire,” or “Let me help you with your grades” or “Tell me about your girlfriend.” There is not that kind of engagement.
We have seen that every man who is successful in his life has had some degree of influence from a mentor, an elder, an uncle. Because of the lack of mentoring, young men are failing more at school, getting into drugs, getting into more drinking, etc.
The problem is that young men growing up today don’t have a good picture of what an adult male is. It’s either Homer Simpson, an absent dad, or a dad who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Basically it looks like all adult males are assholes. And that is a real drag because that’s what they will be in 5 to 10 years.
And then for some, they learn what it means to be a man from their mother’s negative comments about their dad.
Given that, what is the impact on our society?
There is a big impact. When you’re a man who is true to self, true to your core, true to your spirit, you will speak truth. You will know where truth lies. Without that core, the truth becomes what is seen on FOX news – you have to carry guns, hate Muslims, hate others, you have to eat garbage. There is all this insanity that is going on since they listen to whatever propaganda is going on, buy it and then base a life on it. Whereas the man who is well-raised, being more of a real man, he listens to his own truth, has confidence in his own truth, and acts on it. He can then speak his own truth for the community at large, his coworkers, his family. When you have a lot more men clearly speaking truth, there is a ring of rightness. You know when truth is being spoken. And when guys are off-track, they buy whatever propaganda is going on … and then shit happens.
Why did you get involved in working with young men?
There was no real big mission statement about it. After a year of my men’s weekend in March 1988, I was producing men’s events. Then some idiot – me! – said, “Hey, let’s bring our sons as well.” So sons started coming. A day after one event that was a bit rough, my buddy Andy Vine said – like a true Monday morning quarterback – “Hey we should do a weekend just for teenagers.” I said, “You’ll have to fight to keep me out of your back pocket; let’s do it.” Three months later we had our first weekend.
After awhile it took a life of its own. It started dragging me along. After 10 years, I started walking where it was taking me, and the rest is history. We established the Young Men’s Adventure Weekend, the granddaddy of them all in May 1990.
What have you and those weekends accomplished over the years?
There have been a number of successful grads, both young men and men on the production side. Men are terminally inflicted with this thing. They realize there is a gratifying sense at the end of these events, knowing you have participated in something that is significant and good. For the men, their lives have become unalterably changed by making a positive impact on the next generation. For the teenagers, a number have life-changing moments and their lives get better as a result of it.
I understand there was a large gathering in late October in San Diego for the group Boys to Men. What was accomplished there?
Boys to Men is another youth mentoring organization based out of the Mankind Project / New Warrior Training. The meeting in San Diego was the creation of Boys to Men USA. It took 15 smaller independent centers and put them all under one national umbrella. Now that they have a national audience, they can apply for large fundraising. It’s interesting to note, those in leadership for the newly formed Boys to Men have four Sterling / MDI guys: Cole Cameron, Jeff Kidman, Steve Honyotski and myself.
How do they help young men? What are some of the positive statistics this group has shown?
We have found that when young men have a mentor in his life – through this program or anywhere else – there is a large increase in success at school. Ordinarily in a school district, 60 percent of male teenagers will graduate high school, with half of those graduating college. We have seen that if a teenager has a mentor for two hours a week through high school, a total of 100 percent will graduate high school with 90 percent graduating college.
What can MDI and MDI men do to play a role in the furthering the cause of supporting young men in our society?
By mentoring. Just show up. For two hours a week through Boys to Men small groups at a local high school. You ask a couple question and then listen. It’s five percent talking and 95 percent listening. Ultimately, the young men will start cross mentoring each other. “That’s stupid.” “Hey, I’ll come over and help with homework.” So what can the men do? Just show up and listen. Oh, another thing they can do is to contact Leslie.
To reach Brad Leslie about this topic or to connect with the young mens’ organizations, e-mail Leslie at BradLeslie@telus.net.