Pisani has family values on his mind

Post columnist Joe Pisani brought his wit and wisdom to The Woman’s Club of Greenwich last week where he, as he does in his weekly columns, spoke about family and parenting issues as well as the state of modern culture.  —Ken Borsuk

Post columnist Joe Pisani brought his wit and wisdom to The Woman’s Club of Greenwich last week where he, as he does in his weekly columns, spoke about family and parenting issues as well as the state of modern culture.
—Ken Borsuk

Joe Pisani has something very important to say, and he wasn’t shy about sharing it with his audience at a talk he gave last week before The Woman’s Club of Greenwich.

“Let me tell you a secret,” Mr. Pisani said. “Life goes by too fast.”

That message was just the beginning of Mr. Pisani’s discussion of the issues facing the family in modern society, something he is well known for, thanks to his popular weekly column in the Greenwich Post.

His talk was about parenting and grandparenting, tying it in to a recent trip to church where he heard a reading from the Book of Sirach, which is a book that he said is “about living the good life.”

“We’re talking about the good life in a traditional sense,” Mr. Pisani said. “That’s good as in values and not wine, women and song and everything else you hear about. The Book of Sirach was composed in Jerusalem about 180 B.C., but much of what he said applies to us today. It deals with things like respecting your parents which, to my thinking, is somewhat of a forgotten value. Honor your father and mother? Who does that any more.”

He said parents are too often portrayed as bungling imbeciles out of touch with the modern age. He urged, instead of listening to that message, listening to Sirach, who advised listening to parents because they had value in their words. And he didn’t just keep his advice biblical, quoting famed humorist Mark Twain, too.

“Twain once said, ‘When I was a boy of 14 years old, my father was so ignorant I couldn’t stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man learned in seven years,’” Mr. Pisani said. “There’s a lesson in that for all of us.”

Mr. Pisani talked about his own experiences, both as a son, whose grandmother was a widowed immigrant in Bridgeport raising nine kids on her own with no help from social service agencies, and as the father of four daughters, three of whom have gotten married within the last year. He said that young people can still learn a lot, not just from their parents but from their grandparents as well.

“The way a person treats their parents and their grandparents says a lot about their character,” Mr. Pisani said. “I’ve come to recognize and believe that. I was doing some research for a piece recently and I encountered a number of situations. I found that there’s a basic truth that if you love someone, you sacrifice for them regardless of the cost.”

Mr. Pisani gave some examples of this, like a man caring for his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife in their home until the day she died, a son caring for his father and regularly visiting him in a nursing home despite the demands it put on him and a daughter doing all she could to help her mother with Alzheimer’s.

“The question ultimately is, Do we, in a culture that’s so obsessed with self-fulfillment and the pursuit of pleasure, still have the decency and patience to care for our parents, particularly as they get older?” Mr. Pisani said. “Is sacrifice a forgotten notion? This is a conversation I often have with my own kids.”

The attitudes of youth today was a major part of Mr. Pisani’s remarks as he discussed his concerns about raising kids with good values in a culture that he believes is all about worshipping celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian. Peer pressure has always been a problem, he said, but today’s culture has made it more difficult both for the parents trying to raise children and for the youths themselves. He cited things like the entertainment industry, the media and peer pressure that were “conspiring against parents” and making it difficult to teach what is right and wrong.

Mr. Pisani said even in his own family there’s an attitude of “Well, everyone else is doing it,” leading him to recall his own mother, whom he said had a “clear and unblemished” moral view. Because of that, whenever he or his siblings would pull the “everyone else is doing it” card, she would offer up the classic retort of “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” But he granted that things today are much harder on parents than when he was a youth, even though he was growing up in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

“It’s a question of swimming upstream in the tide of popular culture,” Mr. Pisani said. “Otherwise you get swept away into the sewer of popular culture. How do you convince young people that, despite what they see on television and despite what their friends say, some things are wrong?”

He later added, “Doing the right thing is seldom popular. Nowadays, more and more young people are forced to do the wrong thing because they’ve confused the wrong thing and the right thing. But to the benefit of the millennial generation, which is the 78 million young people between 17- and 34-years-old, they do know the right thing. We did some polling for one of our clients recently and it concluded that 75% of millennials feel America’s moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction. So they know.”

Because they know the difference between right and wrong, Mr. Pisani said, there is hope to keep these kids from being swept away with the tide. He said that people must stop compartmentalizing values and having two sets of values, one for home and one for work allowing them to do things even if it violates their conscience. That means going against the grain, and he said people can help with that, targeting his message to his audience at the Woman’s Club.

“I honestly believe grandmothers will save Western civilization or at least Greenwich, Connecticut,” Mr. Pisani said.


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