By now, Michael's difficult and challenging relationship with his father, Joe Jackson, is no surprise to anyone.
Michael has many times recounted the abuse he suffered and his desire to understand his father. His desire to have been closer to him and for them to have spent more time together as father and son. To have a relationship with him.
Here, in Michael's own words, is a more full circle view of the relationship that he had with his father Joe.
This story, however, is not all about struggle and pain, it is also about forgiveness.
Michael forgave his father, though he struggled to understand him better. Michael knew God and mentioned many times over his love for God. God is love. Michael knew that. Michael spent his life showing love to people of all nationalities, races and creeds. He also knew about forgiveness.
Here, Michael touches on how he felt about his father, the ups and downs they went through and his desire to find peace in the relationship with his father, which led to him actively taking a role in forgiving him and reaching out and ultimately, telling him he loved him and calling him Dad in a phone call made prior to a speech he gave.
Michael....on the rough times:
He is so different now. Time and age has change him and he sees his grandchildren and he wants to be a better father. It is almost like the ship has sailed its course and it is so hard for me to accept this other guy that is not the guy I was raised with. I just wished he had learned that earlier."
"We weren't allowed to call him Dad when we were growing up. He said, "Don't call me Dad, I am Joseph.' That's what he told us. But now he wants to be called Dad. It is hard for me. I can't call him Dad. He would make it a point, 'Don't call me Dad. I am Joseph.' I love when Prince and Paris call me "Daddy,"....Sweet. How could you not be proud of that? That's your offspring.
On Michael's belief that you can strike a balance between being a loving father and encouraging your child to be his/her best:
"I think there is a balance. Is it worth giving up fatherhood? Is it worth giving up the love I could have bestowed upon him, and having that camaraderie when we look into each other's eyes, walking through the park, holding hands? I don't think it is worth giving up all of that. I am sorry. That's golden."
Excerpted from "The Michael Jackson Tapes"
Learning To Move On, Move Forward, and Forgive His Father, Joseph
The Ride In The Car to Oxford, and The Phone Call:
"It was Rabbi Shmuley who suggested when we were on the Cromwell Road that Michael phone his father in Las Vegas. 'You're making a speech forgiving him.'
'I think now's the time, Michael.' Michael considered the idea silently all the way to Hammersmith, when he suddenly asked for the nearest mobile phone and dialled. 'Joseph,' he said, as we crawled through the London rush hour. 'It's me, Michael. I'm in London. I'm OK, I've broken my foot and it hurts a lot, but I wanted you to know I'm on my way to Oxford University to make a speech, and you're mentioned in it ...no, no, don't worry, it's very positive. . sure...how are you keeping? Uh-huh. . .sure, of course I will. I love you, Dad, bye.' After saying this, he stared out of the window for a long time. 'You know,' he said to all of us, beaming, 'that's the first time I've ever, ever said that. I can't believe it.' Shmuley gave him a bear hug and congratulated him. Michael continued reading."
From the article "My Friend Michael, The Real ManChild Behind The Mask" by Jonathan Margolis
The Oxford Speech, and Forgiving and Trying To Understand Better, His Father
"You probably weren't surprised to hear that I did not have an idyllic childhood. The strain and tension that exists in my relationship with my own father is well documented.
My father is a tough man and he pushed my brothers and me hard, really hard, from the earliest age, to be the best. He wanted us to be the best performers we could possibly be. He had great difficulty showing affection. He never really told me that he loved me. And he never really complimented me either. If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show. If I did an okay show....he would say nothing (Michael starts to cry).
He seemed intent, above all else, to make us a commercial success. At that he was more than adept. My father was a managerial genius and my brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to the forceful way that he pushed us.
He trained me as a showman, and under his guidance, I couldn't miss a step. But what I really wanted was a Dad. I wanted a father who would show me love. And my father never did that. He never said 'I love you' looking at me straight in the eye. He never played a game with me, he never gave me a piggyback ride, he never threw a pillow at me or a water balloon.
But I remember when I was about 4 years old, ther was a little carnival and he picked me up and put me on a pony. It was a tiny gesture, probably something he forgot 5 minutes later. But because of that one special moment, I have this special place in my heart for him. Because that's how kids are. The little things mean so much. They mean so much.
For me, that moment meant everything. I only experienced it one time, but that one time made me feel really good, about him, and about the world.
Now I am a father myself, and one day I was thinking about my own children, Prince and Paris, and how I wanted them to think of me when they grow up. To be sure, I would like them to remember how I always wanted them to be with me wherever I went, how I always lived to put them before everything else. But there are also challenges in their lives. Because my kids are stalked by paparazzi, they can't always go to the park or to the movies with me.
So what if they resent me when they grow older? What if they resent how my choices impacted their youth? 'Why weren't we given an average childhood like all of the other kids?' they might ask. And at that moment, I pray that my children will give me the benefit of the doubt, that they will say to themselves, 'Our Daddy did the best he could, given the unique circumstances that he faced. He may not have been perfect, but he was a warm and decent man, who lived to give us all the love in the world.'
I hope that they will always focus on the positive things, on the sacrifices I willingly made for them and not criticize the things they had to give up, or the errors I've made, and will certainly continue to make, in raising them. For we all have been someone's child, and we know that despite the very best plans and efforts, mistakes will always occur. That's just being human.
And when I think about this, of how I hope that my children will not judge me unkindly, and will forgive me, forgive my shortcomings, I am forced to think of my own father and despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that he must have loved me.
He did love me, and I know that. There were the little things that showed it. When I was a kid, I had a real sweet tooth. We all did. My father, he did try. But my favorite food to satisfy my sweet tooth was glazed donuts. And my father knew that. So every few weeks I would come downstairs in the morning and there was a bag of glazed donuts. No note, no explanation, just the donuts. It was like Santa Claus. Sometimes I would think about staying up late at night so I could see him leave them there, but just like with Santa Claus, I didn't want to ruin the magic for fear that he would never do it again. My father had to leave them secretly at night, so as no one might catch him with his guard down.
He was scared of human emotion. He didn't understand it or know how to deal with it. But he did know donuts, and when I allow the floodgates to open up, there are other memories that come rushing back. Memories of other tiny gestures, however imperfect, that showed that he did what he could. So tonight, rather than focusing on what my father did not do, I want to focus on all the things he did do and on his own personal challenges. I want to stop judging him.
I have started reflecting on the fact that my father grew up in the South, in a very poor family. He came of age during the Depression and his own father, who struggled to feed his children, showed little affection towards his children and raised my father, and his siblings, with an iron fist. Who could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor black man in the South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope, struggling to become a man in a world that saw my father as subordinate?
I was the first black artist to be played on MTV. I remember how big a deal it was even then, and that was in the 1980's!
Is it any wonder that he found it difficult to expose his feelings? Is it any mystery that he hardened his heart, that he raised the emotional ramparts? And most of all, is it any wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers so that they could be saved from what he knew to be a life of indignity and poverty?
I have begun to see that even my father's harshness was a kind of love. An imperfect love to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man to ever look down at his offpsring. And now, with time, rather than bitterneness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution. And in the place of revenge, I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness.
Almost a decade ago I founded a children's charity called Heal the World. The title was something I felt inside of me. Little did I know, as Shmuley later pointed out, that those 2 words form the cornerstone of the Old Testament prophecy.
So do I really believe we can heal this world, that is so riddles with war and hate and genocide, even today? And do I really think that we can heal our children, who, as the papers reported this morning, can walk into a high school in San Diego and shoot down 2 beautiful students just at the beginning of their lives?
Of course I do, of course I do, or I wouldn't be here tonight.
It all begins with forgiveness, because to heal the world, we first have to heal ourselves. And to heal the kids, we first have to heal the child within, each and every one of us.
As an adult and as a parent, I realize that I cannot be a whole human being, nor a parent capable of unconditional love, until I put to rest the ghosts of my own childhood. And that's what I am asking all of us to do tonight.
Live up to the fifth of the Ten Commandments. Honor your parents by not judging them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. That is why I want to forgive my father and to stop judging him. I want to forgive my father because I want a father and this is the only one that I've got. I want the weight of my past lifted from my shoulders and I want to be free to step into a new relationship with my father for the rest of my life, unhindered by ghosts of the past.
In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. Keep hope alive. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. In a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.
To all of you tonight who feel let down by your parents, I ask you to let down your disappointment. To all of you tonight who feel cheated by your fathers and mothers, I ask you not to cheat yourselves any further, and to all of you who wish to push your parents away, I ask you to extend your hand to them instead. I am asking you, I am asking myself, to give our parents the gift of unconditional love, so that they too may learn how to love from us, their children. So that love will finally be restored to a desolate and lonely world.
Shmuley once mentioned to me an ancient Biblical prophecy which says that a new world and a new time would come when 'the hearts of the parents would be restored through the hearts of their children.' My friends, we are that world. We are those children.
Mohatma Ghandi said, 'The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attitude of the strong.'
Tonight, be strong. Beyond being strong, rise to the greatest challenge of all. To restore that broken covenant. We must all overcome whatever crippling effects our childhoods may have had on our lives and in the words of Jesse Jackson, forgive eachother, redeem eachother, and move on.
From this day forward, let a new song be heard. Let that new song be the sound of children laughing. Let that new song be the sound of children playing. Let that new song by the sound of children singing. And let that new song be the sound of parents listening.
Together, let us create a symphony of hearts, marveling at the miracle of our children and basking in the beauty of their love.
Let us heal the world and blight it's pain. And may we all make beautiful music together. God Bless You and I Love You."
March 6, 2001
A portion of the Oxford University Speech
The Geraldo Interview 2005
"At this season in your life, at this stage, I think you tend to appreciate who your parents are more and waht they've done for you. You almost start to retract everything and where you are in your life and all of the wonderful things they instilled in you. You start to see them come forth and take fruition in your life and I'm starting to see a lot of things that my father influenced me on, my mother. So, it's been amazing.
I'm very much like my father in a lot of ways. He's very strong, he's a warrior. He's always taught us to be courageous and to be confident and to believe in our ideals and no matter what, no star is too far to reach, and you never give up and our mother taught us that as well. No matter what.