My Grandfather on my Dad’s side of the family emigrated from Denmark to the USA in 1923. You can see his signature on the Ellis Island records where most immigrants at that time were registered and processed. You can also see he had very little by way of possessions declared on entry - the equivalent of a $20 dollar bill. He managed to find work on a farm and pay the debts for his trip over. He was able to save some money to eventually open a small shoe store allowing him to perfect his craft as a cobbler. His store prospered and he even managed to patent some of his technology for creating shoes that fit perfectly. He later purchased the building the store was in and my Dad was raised as the first generation American of the Greve family - a witness and student of what amazing things can come from love and hard work.
It was what many would describe as the American dream. My dad went on to get a PhD at Stanford University which my Grandfather and Grandmother both took immense pride in.
My Grandfather’s essential lesson to me still resonates: that we are here to help others become better and in so doing, we all are lifted. Brad Greve, CFO and EC sponsor for gender, BAE Systems.
As a second generation American, I remember my very first trip to Europe when I was about 13 years old. Our journey took us from Italy up to Denmark where we met up with my Grandparents who were also travelling Europe at the time. My Grandfather showed us the house he built for his parents with the money he sent back from the USA years ago. I remember seeing a tear in my Dad’s eye when my Grandfather showed us the plaque on the outside of that house in Denmark. I realise now that the house symbolised far more than a place to live. It represented both a better life for my family, and also the life that was left behind. I reflected on what extraordinary courage and sacrifice it must have taken to leave all that you know and love for a dream, and what a great example it was of what can come from spirit, determination, and drive.
So I grew up with foundations provided by strong, intelligent, caring and brave male role models. As I left home for university and a career beyond, I will never know how many decisions, reflexes, instincts, and reactions carry the echoes of those influences. Probably all of the good ones (the bad ones I have to own!). In that time, and on my own journey, I have had the benefit of fantastic role models that gave me a chance, took a risk on me, sought to drop me into the chaos to see whether I would sink or swim, but always stood close by with the lifeboat.
This is something I am reflecting on now at this stage in my career - as I consider the role I can play, and other men can play in supporting and nurturing people from all backgrounds to fulfil their potential. The same basic truths that brought my Grandfather to distant shores still remain. And his essential lesson to me still resonates: that we are here to help others become better and in so doing, we all are lifted.
It is my hope that men reading this as we mark International Men’s Day will reflect on their own journeys. To be sure, there will be many of you who perhaps did not have the privilege of such great male role models growing up, but the fact that you are reading this is a good indication that you found strength and inspiration along your own path. I hope you will join me in humbly paying that strength and inspiration forward, supporting others and, in our own way, building a house in which future generations will thrive.