In advance of June 15, TIME teamed up with Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s-empowerment foundation, to ask famous dads to write open letters to their daughters. The responses were equal parts heartwarming (Univision anchor Jorge Ramos: “There’s a beautiful picture of us, with you sleeping on my chest. You were only a few weeks old, and I was clearly mesmerized by you. That moment … is my idea of happiness. It’s true love”) and hilarious (TV host Carson Daly: “Be honest, be kind, strive for a life of balance, and it’s O.K. if you get a tattoo Where I can see it”). Here, a sampling of the letters we’re featuring at time.com/lettersfromdad.
Governor of Louisiana (with daughter Selia)
I must have asked you a thousand times. And every time, you gave me the same answer: “An astronaut!” I knew the answer already; I just wanted to see that smile again. It was a smile that made me smile. It was a smile born of confidence, strength and adventure. It was as if, at the age of 5, you had seen all there was to see here on Earth and needed new frontiers to explore.
So your mom and I sent you to space camps. We bought you books and toys to feed your appetite for space exploration. But eventually, as these things go, you got older, lost interest in space and decided to explore some of the joys God blessed us with here on Earth.
I watched your creativity as you explored the subtle beauty of the colors of paint on a canvas. I watched your tenderness and compassion as you experienced the joy of caring for your baby cousins. And I see your determination and discipline as you pursue excellence in school.
But I will never forget the beauty, confidence and strength I saw in that smile.
Star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
To my four daughters and my granddaughter Miley, I want to tell you to never take a backseat to any man, anywhere.
You are not subordinate. You are equal in worth, value, intelligence and authority, so don’t let anyone tell you different. This world is chock-full of patriarchal, chauvinistic, erroneous beliefs about a woman’s “place” in society–some of which I accepted as truth until your mom showed me the error of my ways. I realized that I was only operating at half-speed while I clung to the “man’s manly way” of doing things. When I threw all that junk away, my life took off. And I know you ladies, especially my eldest two, can notice the difference.
I remember hearing a story about how 200 girls in a foreign country were given a “naming ceremony” by their government because they were actually named Unwanted by their parents. I looked at the photos of their little faces, smiling as they held certificates showing the new names they had picked for themselves–Brave, Beautiful, assorted names of admired celebrities. And I wept. Because I could not stop looking at the photo and seeing you–the only difference being the fact that you are wanted. And because I know how deserving of love you and the rest of those young ladies are. I admire the courage the girls displayed in naming themselves, and I want you to have courage too.
Go for your dreams. And even though we may not agree on them, know that I will always support and love you no matter what.
Oscar-winning Frozen songwriter
I love you
I mean I just adore you
I wanna do things for you
All my life.
I love you
And I know you’ll be brilliant
If you can be resilient
All your life.
Creator and executive producer of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire
My darling Simone: In the spring of 2008 I was working at home when Mommy came in to tell me we were having another baby. The truth is I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Thrilled that our family was growing, but terrified because after having your brother Max, I didn’t think I could possibly have any more love left in my heart. My fears vanished the moment I set eyes on you eight months later.
Nearly six years have gone by, and my love for you grows by the minute. Cuddling with you in front of the TV, reading books, singing together, wrestling, playing Monopoly, telling silly jokes–these may seem like simple things, but they have truly been the happiest moments of my already blessed life.
Can I tell you a secret? You know how when we’re walking to school I forget to stop holding your hand even way after we’ve crossed the street? I don’t really forget to let go. It’s that I don’t want to, ever. The day will be here soon enough when you’ll be too big and too embarrassed to let me hold your hand at all, and I want to savor every second of it while I can.
FOR MORE LETTERS
by Matt Lauer, Shaq, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Willie Geist and other dads, visit time.com/lettersfromdad
This appears in the June 23, 2014 issue of TIME.
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