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3 Influential Men On the Power of Their Mothers

This year, to celebrate Mother’s Day, we’re sharing excerpts from interviews conducted by author Suzanne Pollak, who is currently writing a book about extraordinary men in America, and the mothers who helped shape their paths to success.

“The common thread of my mother and son interviews is the incredible power of mothers,” Pollak explains. “Each of these men spoke about wanting to make his mother proud, and not because the mom demanded it. Their mothers had high expectations, and the sons wanted to live up to those expectations  even to this day.”

Read some excerpts below from Pollak’s interviews with professional basketball player Joakim Noah; U.S. Army General and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey; and CEO and founder of Under Armour, Kevin Plank.

Q. Close your eyes and imagine a scene involving your mother. What would she be doing?
A. Joakim Noah: It would be a picnic-type atmosphere. It would just be us, happy, with a glass of wine in her hand — definitely a glass of wine in her hands.

A. General Martin Dempsey: My mother stocked shelves at J.C. Fields, which I think was a precursor to the J.C. Penney chain. And every day, she’d go hop on the bus. The image I have of her is that she’s probably the hardest working person I’ve ever known.

A. Kevin Plank: I remember walking around campaigning for my mother, putting flyers into people’s mailboxes. I was 7 years old when she was the mayor of Kensington, Md. In 1984, she went to the State Department, where she was the director of state and government affairs and a liaison for intergovernmental affairs — a long title to memorize!

Q: What would you say her defining traits are?
A. Joakim Noah: Compassionate and stubborn — those are her two traits. My mom has no problem sharing her emotions. People say the same thing about me.

A. General Martin Dempsey: She was tireless, selfless, and humble. I’m probably humble (as humble as a Chairman can be) because she was so humble herself in raising all her children.

A. Kevin Plank: She is a smart woman with a purpose, which has shifted over time. Her purpose went from raising five kids to entering politics and being passionate about her city and her town, and our heritage.

Q: In summary, what was the key impact your mother had on your life?
A. Joakim Noah: I wouldn’t be the person that I am without her. I want to thank her. Not just because I am a basketball player — that all comes from things she’s taught me. She appreciates simple things, and I love that about my mom.

A. General Martin Dempsey: I had this kind of persistent influence in my life, starting with my grandmother. My first memories of being taught right from wrong are actually from my grandmother, because again, my mother was always working. I do think I am probably the person I am because of my mother.

A. Kevin Plank: She taught me resilience. She has seen a lot. She had a lot of highs and lows and she kept her balance — she was always incredibly principled and unflappable.

Watch Pollak interview another interviewee from her upcoming book, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at AOL studios:


Suzanne Pollak is the accomplished author of “The Pat Conroy Cookbook,” “Entertaining for Dummies,” “The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits,” “Etiquette with Recipes,” and is the founder of The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits.

NEXT: Celebrating #MAKERSMOMS »

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