Happy Father’s Day!

I know it’s a bit late, but Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Ben, who does not yet have the hand eye coordination or spelling skillz to write a post, would like to say a couple words:

Hey blog-o-sphere. I just wanted to let you all know that my dad is the best. Even though it’s obvious that I prefer clinging to my mommy because she plays really fun games with me, I love my dad too. He’s really good at throwing me up in the air and makes me feel like the tallest baby in the world when he lets me ride his shoulders. He takes me to fun places, like baseball and basketball games. He teaches me fun words when he yells at the TV, but mommy says that they’re words I shouldn’t repeat. He’s good at throwing my basketball in the hoop, and even lets me have a turn once in a while. When we’re driving around together he gets me Happy Meals at McDonalds because he knows I love fries and chicken nuggets. He likes to hug me and give me little kisses when I’m sleeping. I know he loves me a lot and I love him, too. Happy Father’s day!

Barack Obama made a great speech today, talking about the importance of fathers in the lives of children. I’ve got part of the speech below and you can click on the link for the whole speech at the bottom, or watch the 24 minute youtubed version below. I’d have to say my favorite quote from this massive speech is this: “We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down - you’re strong by lifting them up.”

Good morning. It’s good to be home on this Father’s Day with my girls, and it’s an honor to spend some time with all of you today in the house of our Lord.

Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - 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.

You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

Yes, we need more cops on the street. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Yes, we need more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more afterschool programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities.

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it’s the courage to raise one.

We need to help all the mothers out there who are raising these kids by themselves; the mothers who drop them off at school, go to work, pick up them up in the afternoon, work another shift, get dinner, make lunches, pay the bills, fix the house, and all the other things it takes both parents to do. So many of these women are doing a heroic job, but they need support. They need another parent. Their children need another parent. That’s what keeps their foundation strong. It’s what keeps the foundation of our country strong.

I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father - knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now. I say this knowing all of these things because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers - whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.

The first is setting an example of excellence for our children - because if we want to set high expectations for them, we’ve got to set high expectations for ourselves. It’s great if you have a job; it’s even better if you have a college degree. It’s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don’t just sit in the house and watch “SportsCenter” all weekend long. That’s why so many children are growing up in front of the television. As fathers and parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them, and help them with their homework, and replace the video game or the remote control with a book once in awhile. That’s how we build that foundation.

It’s up to us - as fathers and parents - to instill this ethic of excellence in our children. It’s up to us to say to our daughters, don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for those goals. It’s up to us to tell our sons, those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in my house we live glory to achievement, self respect, and hard work. It’s up to us to set these high expectations. And that means meeting those expectations ourselves. That means setting examples of excellence in our own lives.

The second thing we need to do as fathers is pass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy - the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes; to look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in “us,” that we forget about our obligations to one another. There’s a culture in our society that says remembering these obligations is somehow soft - that we can’t show weakness, and so therefore we can’t show kindness.

But our young boys and girls see that. They see when you are ignoring or mistreating your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home; or when you are distant; or when you are thinking only of yourself. And so it’s no surprise when we see that behavior in our schools or on our streets. That’s why we pass on the values of empathy and kindness to our children by living them. We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down - you’re strong by lifting them up. That’s our responsibility as fathers.

Click here for the whole speech…

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1 Comment

2008-06-16 16:27:51

Nino says

Love your Father’s Day pic. Looks fun.

 

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