Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Father's Day

For years as a child, on Father's Day, I would give my dad a card, sometimes with a small gift and sometimes not. As I got older, it went from a card to a call...until 2006. That was the year my dad died. There were no more cards and no more calls.

When I too became a father, the same routine was repeated. My children gave me cards or little gifts on this special day.

I often think of my dad, Donald Raymond Kerik, Sr. His wisdom, humor, attitude, and his humility have stuck with me,along with all of the things he taught me about life, both big and small. I am in awe of his strength, his courage. It was something I never realized until the end. Throughout his life and mine, I never saw it, or witnessed it, or felt it. He was mild mannered, peaceful, and most often a passive man, until the day we sat in a room with two doctors who told him that the end was near.

He had no fear, he didn't flinch, and he sat there as stoic as one could be in the face of death, in complete control.

He wasn't going to take chemo. "I hear it makes you sick," he said. He didn't want pain killers. "I've never done drugs, and I'm not going to start now."

When he asked how long he would live, the doctor replied, "Without treatment, months... maybe three or four."

With my brother and me in shock, my mother in hysteria, and the doctors a bit stunned, Dad thanked them for their time, stood up and said, "I'm not sure what I intend to do, so I'll discuss it with my wife and sons, and I'll get back to you tomorrow. Now let's get some lunch," and off we went.

I learned more about him on that one day than perhaps any other. He died six months later.

This coming Father's Day will my third away from my own children, and as difficult as this time has been for all of us, it has given me another way to look at Father's Day, and what it means to me.

I've realized it has nothing to do with cards, gifts or calls.

To me, Father's Day is the first time you hear your child say "Daddy." It's their smile in the morning, a kiss on the cheek, the soft touch of their hands. It's running your hands through their hair when they're sleeping and the way they smell after their evening bath. It's the words, "I love you," before bed, and butterflies and Eskimos. It's movies on Saturdays, pancakes on Sundays, and outrageous ice creams at Friendly's. It's watching your oldest succeed and your youngest excel. It's teaching them things that you never knew and giving them more than you ever had. It's your daughter with your freckles, eyes, and attitude, and your son with the same birthmark on his back that you have on yours. It's the joy that comes from being a father, and the heart full of love that you cannot explain.

For me, Father's Day is every day, all year long. Missing the last three years with my children has done nothing more than make me understand that.

I miss my father. He was a good man.

As for my children, Happy Father's Day! You've given me the greatest gift of all.

You can follow Mr. Kerik at

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Last year, a friend of mine sent me an article titled "How to Talk to Little Girls" by Lisa Bloom. As a father of two little girls, twelve and nine, I read the article with interest and thought, as many readers have since, what about "How to talk to little boys?"

As fate would have it, that question would stir up enough commotion that Lisa Bloom would answer that question in her newly released book, SWAGGER--10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture. If this was a lottery, SWAGGER is the jackpot. If this were baseball, SWAGGER is a World Series winning grand slam. But this is real life, and that being said, SWAGGER is a MUST-READ for every parent, educator and legislator in this country.

After 30 years in law enforcement, commanding two of the largest law enforcement organizations in the United States--the NYPD and the New York City jail system, including Rikers Island--I must admit that for most of my career, I had a one-sided view of the American criminal justice system until I became a federal investigative target and later surrendered to federal prison.

The circumstances surrounding my investigation and my incarceration has contradicted much of what I once believed. There are times when I am filled with bitterness and anger at the system--and at myself--for being here. I am constantly trying to make sense of it all, to seek out and find what good can come of this.

If there has been one benefit to society in my incarceration, it is that I have witnessed what no one with my experience has ever seen before. No one.. There is no site survey, inspection, guided tour, or magic window to look through that allows a federal judge, attorney, prosecutor, member of Congress, or law enforcement or prison administrator to clearly see what it is like to live as an inmate. They do not and cannot see the system's successes or failures or injustices without having lived within the system.

As a father, an American, and someone who has fought for and defended the very freedoms and liberty that I feel are in jeopardy for our young men today, I believe SWAGGER can be one of the most important books of our time.

This no-nonsense, no B.S. guide to raising boys and young men is one of the first books I have read in a long time that's not about the left or right, not about liberals or conservatives, and it is not gauged for the politically correct.

Ms. Bloom clearly outlines the problems with America's educational system, economy, criminal justice system, and thug culture. She then lays out 10 rules for guiding young boys and men into adulthood, rules that can help them get an education, stay out of prison, and become successful members of society.

Do you know that only one in three Baltimore kids graduate from high school? Or, nationwide, that the majority of African American and Hispanic boys drop out of high school? They are destined for doom and failure if things don't change, and Ms. Bloom explains why.

She also raises serious questions as to why there is there no outrage at the glamorization of drug use, drug dealing and violence in the music and entertainment industry. "We're not talking about little racy innuendo; some of the biggest artists today advocate joining the Crips, punching your girlfriend, or murdering gay men," she writes, calling for parents to know and stare down the reality and critically discuss media messages with their boys.

From teaching boys how to respect girls and women, to being ever-critical of all media, to the lost virtue of humility, in this hard-hitting, must-read guide to mentoring, educating and raising healthy sons, Ms. Bloom provides the reader with easy, common sense solutions that can help parents, educators and our political leaders change the future of young boys and men in this country. And, although her book focuses primarily on boys and their upbringing, there is so much you can learn from it when it comes to raising girls as well.

I grew up hard, on the streets of Newark and Paterson, New Jersey. I was abandoned by my mother, a prostitute, who was murdered when I was nine. I dropped out of high school, destined for failure, but the U.S. Army, martial arts, and the right mentoring and guidance from my father, step-mother, and those who cared changed all that. Thirty years later, I was nominated for a presidential cabinet post.

I've seen the boys that Lisa Bloom writes about.. They were on the streets of Newark, Paterson, and New York City, and on Rikers Island. Many of those high school drop outs from Baltimore are right here in this minimum security camp. So too are young men from some of America's most wealthy cities.

Lisa Bloom talks about what happens without the proper mentoring. I can tell you my first hand observations: Once the youngest and most vulnerable are incarcerated, and mix into their new surroundings and the fear of prison dissipates, they begin their "new education" with the older inmates as their teachers. These are grown men who sit around like teenage boys, talking about old times, drugs, guns, cars, jewelry, women and sports.

The young men, newly incarcerated, will learn how to lie, cheat, steal, con, manipulate, and gamble. Their vocabulary diminishes into a profound ghetto slang, their posture changes into an intimidating swagger, a fist bump replaces a handshake, and a grunt replaces "Good morning." They learn more about the drug trade than they did on the outside, and disagreements often result in threats of violence. This is just for starters.

The longer they are here, the more demoralized and hopeless they become. Whatever societal values they may have had upon their arrival now change to institutional ones that lack respect, discipline and responsibility.. The cost of their incarceration is in the billions, but the collateral cost to society is immeasurable.

Our government and criminal justice and prison systems cannot fix this problem alone. It take parents, teachers and educators, and our political leadership.

Lisa Bloom explains who should do what and why, and she talks about the power of parenting, and how mentoring is a must.

In the end, through her questions and research, she finds the answers that every parent needs to hear. The boys tell us all, in their own ways, what they need, what they want, and what would make them be the best they could be.

"Listen to me, Pay attention to me, Get to know me, Spend time with me. And, protect me."

It doesn't seem like too much to ask. And although that, in itself, will not fix everything, it is a great start.

There was something else Ms. Bloom said in her book that could not be more true. "Closing our eyes and hoping for the best won't cut it, not when our boys live in the real world."

Most Americans live in that real world and know and understand these problems, but don't have the courage to acknowledge or admit them. Lisa Bloom does it for us. She outlines the problems as clear as day, and then takes it a step further, by bringing real solutions to the table that don't cost money, will save lives, and keep our kids out of prison.

If you care about your children, SWAGGER is a must-read. If you care about this country, get your educators and political leadership to read it as well.


You can follow Mr. Kerik at:

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Although summer doesn't officially begin until the middle of June, to most Americans, Memorial Day and the weekend is the start of summer. It's the first weekend of the year when American families open their swimming pools or head for the beach, plan backyard barbeques, make sure that their landscaping is in tip-top shape, post an American flag on their porch, and if they have time, they just may attend their local Memorial Day Parade. That is what most American families will do.

But there is another group of American families who will be far less focused on summer festivities or the beach or barbeques, and they probably won't have time to go to their local parade.

They will wake up on that Monday morning - Memorial Day - and instead of driving to the beach, they will drive to a cemetery. Instead of standing over a barbeque pit, they will stand over a grave. Instead of landscaping at home, they will remove the weeds and debris from around the tombstone that bears the name of an American hero who gave his or her life defending and protecting this great country. After they've cleaned up this hallowed ground, they will post an American flag as a solemn reminder of who lies there.

There will be no ceremony or guest speaker, and the eerie silence of that cemetery will only be broken by the faint sounds those crying or praying out loud. These mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, family members and friends are not there to celebrate, but to mourn, to honor, to remember, and to reflect on the life of their loved one who gave their all so that the rest of us could live in freedom, freedom that we so often take for granted.

That is what Memorial Day is all about. Remembering our heroes..

On this Memorial Day, let s take a moment to honor and pray for our heroes and their families who have sacrificed so much for all of us. Let s take a moment to thank a veteran for service to our country. Let s take the time to send a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, the USO, Fisher House, or any organization that supports our veterans.

Most importantly, let us honor these fallen heroes by sowing the seeds of patriotism in our children, teaching them what Memorial Day really stands for and why it is so important to never forget the sacrifices others have made on our behalf. Let's teach them that freedom is never free, and that without the members of our armed forces, here and around the world, this country would not be what it is today.

On this Memorial Day, I also want to give special thanks to the men and women of the NYPD for their sacrifices on and after 9/11 and to the members of our Armed Forces, the FBI, CIA and local and state law enforcement for standing between good and evil and keeping this country safe from harm.

Godspeed and God Bless you all.


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