The GOP U.S. representative from Pennsylvania had been encouraged to study engineering, but his dad came around to his passion for politics
As part of a series to mark Father’s Day, Moneyish asked some prominent people to share the lessons they learned from their father or father figures about money and leadership. Read more here.
My father, Walter “Pete” Dent, was in industrial engineering at Bethlehem Steel and later worked in human resources. He was at Bethlehem during tough times – he retired in the early 80s, when there was cheaper foreign steel becoming available – and his advice to my siblings and me was that we should pursue degrees in science, math and engineering. He thought those would serve us well because they would always be important.
My brother and sister listened and both became chemical engineers. I started in engineering but called him after my first trimester and said I was moving into the sciences. Political science. I don’t think he was pleased, but my parents were always very supportive of my political pursuits. My father was an outstanding photographer but never did it professionally. He was really exceptional and I thought he had some regret later in life that he didn’t do more to pursue his own interests.
Dad was a very humble man with a lot of good sense and perspective. He passed away on Memorial Day in 2006 and was seen as a thoughtful, reasonable guy. When it comes to solving problem in politics, I do have a lot of my father’s temperament. Like him, I’m interested in seeking results and solving problems. He was a very practical guy and could interact with just about anybody.
I got good lessons about money and life not just from my father, but also my mother’s father. He was Pennsylvanian German-Dutch and only had a limited formal education. But he was all about saving and investing and sure knew how to count. He always said to save first before doing anything else and didn’t believe in going into debt. People like this were very important in my life.
There are big differences between my father’s generation and ours today, but some things never change. I didn’t tell my children what to do, but my daughter just graduated from the College of Agricultural Science at Penn State and my son is studying industrial engineering. My youngest son is probably not going to do that— he’s more interested in politics. Go figure.
Charlie Dent is a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and co-chair of the Tuesday Group, a GOP caucus of center-right U.S. representatives.
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