Obama as Dad -- A National Treasure and Role Model

Last week the First Husband and First Daddy, better known as President Obama, was asked if losing next year’s election would devastate him.   

“I’m sure there are days when I say one term is enough,” he told The Today Show. “Michelle and the kids are wonderful in that if I said ‘You know what guys I want to do something different,’ they would be fine. They are not invested in Daddy being president or my husband being president.”

He also indicated that he believes there is a bigger job than being President – one job that has to be done before he can be a good leader for America.

“If family is doing well and Michelle is still putting up with me then I’ve got enough energy to keep doing the work I’m doing,” said the president.

Whatever one’s political disagreements with President Obama may be, Republicans, Independents and Democrats -- all Americans -- can take pride in the fact that they have a President who is a devoted husband and loving father. As a dad he is a national treasure, a visual icon to remind us of the importance of fatherhood and family.

This President stands as a defiant daily contrast to the pop culture message that wealthy, strong, successful men are unattached to families. He is also a father who puts the lie to the image of fathers as dummies -- the bumbling, barely tolerated dads all over TV from Peter Griffin in ‘Family Guy’ to Homer Simpson.

Even if you can’t stand his policies, President Obama has consistently offered the nation the image of an intelligent, successful man who puts being a good husband and father first.

And the fact that he is a good father who leads a black family is even more important because the rate of absentee fathers in the black and Hispanic community amounts to a national crisis.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 25 million children live without their biological father at home. That is one out of every three children in America in 2011. The number rises dramatically in the black community with nearly two out of every three children living in absent-father homes.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, a critically important civic organization for modern America run by the passionate Roland Warren, the absence of fathers has a devastating effect on children later in life.

“Research shows that kids with absent fathers are two to three times more likely to be poor, to fail in school, to be teen parents and become involved with the criminal justice system,” said Warren.

As I pointed out in my 2006 book, “Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It,” men abandoning pregnant women has become acceptable in much of black America. Bill Cosby told me that when he was a young man a man who got a woman pregnant without first marrying her felt he had to leave town or join the military. A man who neglected his wife and children was treated as a low-life. Now hip-hop culture affirms the “Baby Daddy” as proof of manhood.

The absence of a father creates a psychological pain for so many young Americans, a burden that leads them to break rules and defy authority even as they are desperate for a strong male role model.

President Obama made the importance of fatherhood a continuous theme of his 2008 presidential campaign that culminated in his election as the first black President of the United States.
It is very much to his credit that Obama has not abandoned his commitment to fatherhood as President -- both in his own life and in setting policy for the nation.

Three years ago, Barack Obama spoke before a packed congregation at Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, one of the largest black churches in the city. Then a candidate for president, he issued a clarion call about the need for black men to meet their responsibilities as husbands and fathers.

“We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception,” he declared. “Too many fathers are M.I.A., too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

Obama has spoken poignantly about the effect the absence of his own father had on him when he was a child. "I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle -- that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls” he said with his wife Michele and their daughters Malia and Sasha in the audience.

"They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

For his painfully true comments, Obama drew criticism from some leaders in the black community for -- as Jesse Jackson put it -- “talking down to black people.”

In 2009, President Obama created the Task Force for Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families. Based on their report, the president has pledged to enact policies that would promote and foster responsible fatherhood.

He has supported the “Strong Fathers, Strong Families” campaign, which encourages businesses to offer free and discounted rates for dads and their children to spend quality time at museums, sporting events and other attractions.

Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services has continued a program from the Bush administration which provides grants to faith and community based organizations to teach classes on parenting, job development and financial management.

Under Obama, the Department of Justice has invested in a pilot program in Washington D.C. -- the “Father Re-Entry Program” -- which helps fathers who have been released from jail find jobs so they can help support their children. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the program could be applied throughout the nation.

On this Father’s Day, we can celebrate the president’s example and his wise words about fatherhood. America’s churches, schools and civic organizations all need to join in meaningful action to increase the number of good fathers. The problem will only get worse if it is not addressed and the time to address it is now.