Christopher A. Etienne, Sr., Letters from a Father: Empathy and Character (sponsored)

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Father and son, Christopher Sr. & ‘Lil Chris Etienne

Dear Son:

The scripture teaches parents that we should “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it” Proverbs 22:6. I believe and follow that scripture as an anchor to my fatherhood. Indeed, being a father to you, Christopher A. Etienne, Jr., is my most important job.

I constantly reflect on when I first laid eyes on you, when you were born in 2019. I had no doubt the second I saw this gift from God with that gentle smile and big eyes looking up at me, I said, I will make sure to get you as healthy as possible with the help from the Lord. Indeed, the Lord continues to answer my prayers.

The love and joy of being a father were not something I had to make an effort to do. It was spiritual; it was emotional, physical. The attachment to you I felt wholly and entirely. I thought to myself — no problem. If the baseline is unconditional love, I’ve got that. There are many things in this life’s journey that I will make every effort to teach you. Among these are character, reputation and empathy. I am of the mindset that these three traits are essential to a well-balanced life.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama once quoted the following from President Abraham Lincoln: “character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” At a time when charisma, style and image all too often trump character, substance and integrity, it is beneficial to remember that Lincoln fought for the latter. He reminds society that our fundamental greatness is not the shadow of sophistication or popularity, wealth or power, or fleeting celebrity. The tree stands in the face of our doubts, fears and bigotries and insists we can do better.

Lastly, I want you to model empathy. Passing along the value of empathy to you is very important to me. Not sympathy, but empathy — the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to look at the world through their eyes. As you grow older, you will find that there’s a culture in our society that believes remembering these obligations is somehow soft, that we can’t show weakness, and therefore we can’t show kindness. I do not believe in that premise.

That’s why I want you to model empathy because it is essential to know that a person is not strong by putting others down — you’re strong by lifting people up. Indeed, being a father to you, son (Lil’ Chris), is a blessing.




Christopher A. Etienne: Director of Community and Governmental Affairs at NOLA Public Schools

Christopher A. Etienne, Sr.’s passion for public service comes from a deeply held desire to impact the lives of others while transforming his community. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, he was taught at an early age the significance of service, community strength, quality education, and the principles of social justice.

In June 2022, Mr. Etienne was appointed the Director of Community and Governmental Affairs at NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS). In this capacity, he is responsible for increasing public engagement and confidence in the school system.

Before joining NOLA-PS, Mr. Etienne served as a Legislative Aide to the former U.S. Representative Cedric L. Richmond and U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, both of Louisiana and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes of Connecticut. In these roles, he was responsible for analyzing and drafting legislation that serves the common good, promotes racial equity, and supports economic mobility and opportunity for children and families of all backgrounds, especially the most vulnerable.

Mr. Etienne earned a Master of Arts degree in Political Science, with a concentration in Black Politics and a minor in Public Policy, from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). He was also selected to the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute (NORLI) Class of 2023.

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