A prison cell is seen through the door window following a tour of the cell block by U.S. President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

John Fountain: A lifetime of good choices adds up to a good life

SHARE John Fountain: A lifetime of good choices adds up to a good life
SHARE John Fountain: A lifetime of good choices adds up to a good life

This is part of an occasional series of talks with my 13-year-old son, titled, “Mornings with Malik: The road to manhood”

Dear Son, you can choose to be counted in the number of good, contributing and successful black men. Or you may choose to become just another statistic.

You can choose to have digits behind your name — as in Illinois Department of Corrections Identification No… (fill in the blank).

Or you can choose initials to follow your name — as in B.A., M.D., J.D., or Ph.D.


You can choose — to be a thug, or a thespian. A batterer. Or a banker.

High. Or sober. A happenstance “baby daddy.” Or someday, a loving father by responsible planning.

You can aspire to be Chief Keef. Chief Justice. Or Chief of Police.

Regardless of the circumstances that may ever befall you, dear son, always remember: You have the power to choose. The ability to determine whetherit is your menacing mug shot that appears when people Google your name. Or your smiling professional headshot.

You must choose today — understanding that the sum of good decisions is a good life.

Will it be your résumé or your rap sheet that a potential employer someday will survey?

Will you choose to become a drug dealer or a doctor? A pariah? Or a paramedic? A triumph? Or a tragedy?

A menace to society and multiple offender? Or a model and manifestation of what is possible, even for a young black man, by hard work and a dream?

You can choose that straight and narrow path toward life. Or you can choose that wide and winding road toward death, sorrow and destruction.

Choose wisely.

Son, no young man is immune — whether suburban, urban or rural. Whether rich, middle-class or poor.

The world can be a cold cruel place for all men. For a black man, the world can feel bitterly frozen by a polar vortex with no impending forecast for relief.

And still, you get to choose. No excuses. You must choose.

You can attach yourself to “friends” prone to trouble — foul-mouthed, criminally-minded characters, disrespectful of girls and women — even their own mothers. Or you can choose friends who are respectful, respected and like-minded in their thirst for knowledge, success and a good future.

You can choose to follow wisdom or folly. You get to choose whether your life ultimately brings joy to your mother. Or pain. Glory. Or shame.

You must choose whether to build for yourself your own good name in time, or to make your name notorious and forever associated with crime.

You must choose whether to be a follower, tossed by every whim, like dead leaves blown by an autumn wind. Or to be a leader, following your conscience, standing steadfast on what is honest and good and true, like a strong ship anchored against a storm.

You can choose to work hard in school, to learn to delay gratification for that which lasts. Or you can choose to goof off and procrastinate — to allow lifeto happen to you rather than grasping it firmly by its reins.

You can choose to master the King’s English — to use it as a tool of effective communication, as a key to unlock doors. Or you can allow gibberish, slang and ghetto speak to define and also confine you.

Son, in 2013, there were 526,000 black males in state and federal prison, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. But the number I want you to focus on is 1.2 million — the number of black males, according to the U.S. Census, enrolled in college that year.

Son, it’s up to you. Choose.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

Follow John Fountain on Twitter: JohnWFountain

The Latest
The mayor said she has asked Police Supt. David Brown for a “fixed post of uniformed officers at the intersection of State and Chicago and a separate fixed post in the Red Line station.”
Kamiah Alford, 25, is charged with one felony count of aggravated discharge of a firearm, Chicago police said.
Shootings are up 225% in the 18th District, which includes the McDonald’s where the mass shooting occurred. In the 1st District, which covers parts of downtown and the Loop, shootings are up 100%.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals — substances that occur naturally in the body but can damage cells and DNA.
City Hall and HUD now agree: People shouldn’t have to live in the conditions faced by residents of the badly run, federally subsidized Ellis Lakeview Apartments in North Kenwood.