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Posted June 6, 2001
Anecdotal Look at Pleasures and Varieties of Male Bonding
Many authors have picked up on the fact that men need coaching on how to converse with and relate to women. Stephen Ambrose has done a fine service in opening up the need for men to pay more attention to how they relate to other men. Using a combination of historical and personal examples, men will find this book a beacon to guide them towards new kinds of fulfillment. Women will learn to appreciate more of the benefits of encouraging fathers, husbands, and sons to have closer ties with other males. One of the benefits that I got from this book was that it filled me in on relationships that I have never had and won't have. For example, I don't have a brother. I could tell from seeing how my father related to his brothers that this was something special, but could never quite get inside of it. Now I understand the relationship much better from hearing what Professor Ambrose has to say about his brothers. I also never served in the military (4F was my draft status), and did not have that experience. From my father's faithful attendance at military reunions with his World War II unit mates over the years, I could also tell that this was special for him. I also understand this relationship a little better now. I appreciate both of those gifts. Professor Ambrose also points out the potential downsides of these relationships. Custer's unbridled ambition and ego led his two brothers to their deaths at an untimely age. Professor Ambrose's father was stern and strict until late in his life, making his sons feel downtrodden. Milton Eisenhower tried to talk his brother Dwight out of running for a second term, thinking it might kill him. Three other stories were especially rewarding for me. The first was how Professor Ambrose's father developed an interest in American history and helped Professor Ambrose become a fine historian, after having insisted he become a medical doctor earlier. This encouraged me to want to learn more about my sons' professions, both of which I know relatively little about now. The second was the very close connection that some World War II foes on D-Day developed in the post-war period. It made me think that I should seek out people with whom I may have once felt competitive, and become better acquainted. The third related to close ties with students. This made me want to do more teaching than I do now, so that I can develop more cross-generational male friendships. That was something that had never occurred to me. Comrades is not a history book in the classic sense. It is also not a how-to book. Instead, it reflects a sort of oral tradition that will spark emotions and desires in you that you didn't know you had. That's a great benefit to receive from a book. By the way, I suspect that students of management could learn a lot from the example of Lewis and Clark that is described here. After you finish this book, do take a little time to think about which variations on these themes you would like to weave more strongly into your life. Then get going! May you enjoy all the brotherhood that you share! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution
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Posted August 19, 2009
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