Groundbreaking Pilot’s Advice for Dads

Written by Janet Denison
Published on June 12, 2017

Karen Borta, the CBS anchor, said, “I need a piece of paper. I have to write that down.” CBS had just finished airing a segment about Lou Freeman, a Southwest Airlines pilot. Lou was in the ROTC program, enlisted in the Air Force and later was hired by Southwest Airlines to pilot their planes. While that resume is impressive, it isn’t the reason he was on the news. Lou Freeman was the first African American pilot hired by Southwest Airlines, and he recently retired.

It was a great news story about a great man, but it was one line in his interview that caused Karen Borta, and me, to grab a pencil and paper. Mr. Freeman was asked what gave him the motivation and courage to break that racial barrier. His response was profound, perfect, and the advice I think every child needs to hear, especially from their dad. Lou Freeman said, “I was raised to think that I was as good as anybody; but, better than nobody . . . and that’s how I still feel. I can do anything that I put my mind to, that I put my heart into.”

What a great lesson to teach a child. A good dad knows the importance of building a child’s self-esteem. He knows he needs to encourage his kids to get a great education and do their best to succeed at whatever they do. A good dad spends time helping his kids develop skills and attends the sporting events, recitals, and school programs. A good dad is faithful to cheer for his children and raise them to know that they are as “good as anybody.” But, the key to Mr. Freeman’s advice is the second part. Are we as good at teaching our kids they are “better than nobody”?

Mr. Freeman’s dad was faithful to his family. Lou Freeman has been married thirty-four years, and his son is working in aviation, hoping to be a pilot someday too. Pew Research reports that American fathers are much more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Dads are sharing the work of raising children, balancing work and family, and their role as a father is central to their personal identity. Men want to be good fathers. But, part of being a good father is teaching your children to combine their talents with a strong dose of humble perspective.

True self-esteem is found in the truth. That is why athletes like Jordan Spieth, Dak Prescott, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Tebow are impressive. They are talented, capable men—but their humility causes them to stand out on the field. Paul teaches in Philippians, chapter two, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That sounds a lot like, “you are as good as anybody, better than nobody.”

Robbie Owens, the CBS reporter who conducted the interview with Lou Freeman, asked how he wanted to be remembered. His response:

“Hopefully,” he started, and then paused when the emotions of the moment threatened to overwhelm, “you guys are tearing me up!” He added with a laugh. And then, simply this, “Hopefully, I set a good foundation. I set a good example; it’s not hard to do. But, you’ve got to have your heart into it.”

To good dads on this Father’s Day, consider Lou Freeman’s example and these words from Paul: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). God has given you a great blessing, the opportunity to be a dad. Raise your kids to be well-rounded, strong, capable and humble human beings. Do that because you are serving the Lord as well as your family. God will help you, cheer you on, and keep you humble because He thinks you are as good as anybody, but better than nobody. And He knows that one day, because of Jesus, you and your kids will be absolutely perfect.

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Janet Denison

Janet Denison teaches others to live an authentic faith through her writing, speaking, and teaching ministry. She blogs weekly at and often at

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