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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

How A Wedding Toast Could Provide A Shield Against Inhumanity

By Allan Shedlin

Grampsy and Founder, DCG and the Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)

It happened three decades ago, and I can still picture it as if it was yesterday.

I attended the wedding of a close relative. When the father of the bride arose to give a toast to his daughter, I expected to hear something brief and formulaic. If that had been the case, it would have been lost to my memory – and likely to the memory of all the others present.

Imagine if we all stepped up to the mic and embraced our vulnerabilities

But when the father picked up the mic, he sang a song of love and appreciation to his daughter. The guests quieted down to listen intently. After the song was complete, the dad spoke from his heart about what his daughter meant to him and how happy he was to be gaining a new son. He wished them a loving life together. I do not remember the exact words he used, but I do remember how heartfelt and moving they were.

Sometimes we best remember what we feel in a particular moment.

I likely was not the only guest who was moved by the emotion – words and feelings likely few of us expected from this dad who wasn’t known for expressing his feelings.

Once the guests went back to their celebrating, I went over to the dad to say how touched I was by his toast. "I guess, deep down, I’m a pretty sensitive guy," he told me. My immediate reaction was to respond, "You know, you don’t always need to keep your sensitivity 'deep down.'"

In my three decades of conducting qualitative research with fathers and conducting workshops in a wide variety of settings, I’ve noticed how often men protect against showing signs of emotional vulnerability. Sometimes it seems as if men have learned to create a protective shield against vulnerability, as if this was a necessary component of true masculinity – of their humanity.

You don’t always need to keep your sensitivity 'deep down.'

Imagine if we, as a culture, chipped away at that shield and thought of embracing our vulnerability as part of our protective shield against inhumanity. Perhaps then we wouldn’t need to see so many images of dads and moms, their vulnerability on vivid display, weeping at the consequences of the manmade horrors of war.


Allan Shedlin has devoted his life's work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the Daddying Film Festival & Forum to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.


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