Tuesday, June 23, 2009

President Obama's Town Hall Meeting on Fatherhood

At the Town Hall meeting at the White House last Friday, I was delighted to be the first person to speak with the President. Below is my statement and his response. Of note, he called me a "young man" so there was clearly lighting that worked in my favor....

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. So what I want to do is just call on some folks. They can ask a question. They can share a story. Organizations that are doing great work on fatherhood, please tell us a little bit about the work that you are doing. And I want to especially hear from some of the young people who somehow ended up sitting in the back. (Laughter.) I don't know how that happened. I'm going to start with this young man right here.Go ahead. Introduce yourself. Stand up, please.

ME: Yes. My name is Roland Warren. I'm president of an organization called National Fatherhood Initiative. And first, just thank you for what you're doing on this issue. And a lot of folks have been sort of toiling on this issue for a number of years, and to have you come forward and step up and make this a national priority is really important.And one of the things I just want to say to you, that your message, in terms of the fact that even though you've had obviously tremendous success without your dad, the fact that you really needed him and that kids have a hole in their souls essentially in the shape of their dad I think is pretty important, because we really need to focus on that issue; that we got to change the legacy and help our kids pass on the legacy -- have our dads pass on a different legacy than maybe they inherited. I grew up without my dad, as well, and went to Princeton and things of that nature, but still needed him. That's one of the reasons I do the work that I do. So I really am delighted that you're doing the great work that you're doing around this issue.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Yes, I really want to emphasize this point about how just small moments and gestures can make a huge difference. A lot of folks know I love playing basketball. But it was my father who gave me my first basketball. Even though he wasn't a part of my life, in the few weeks that I was with him, he gave me a basketball. A lot of folks know I love jazz. It turns out he took me to my first jazz concert. I didn't remember this until later on in life, but just that imprint is powerful. And imagine if that's sustained every day. And especially, young men, when they hit the teenage years, to have somebody there who is there to steady them and to provide them with some guidance, that makes all the difference in the world. And again, this is not to take away from the heroic work that moms are doing. It's to emphasize moms need some help -- because if you're a single mom like mine was, and maybe they're going to school or working -- the pressures are enormous. And having somebody else there who's able to carry on that child-rearing responsibility is absolutely critical.

1 comment:

  1. I am beyond proud to see and hear men, more specifically, men of color in powerful leadership positions speaking openly about the most powerful leadership position we have: father.To hear President Obama speak about the "imprint" fathers make by doing small things with their children is incredible. I work with teen fathers and believe you me these guys are watching and taking notes and I have noticed a change in how the guys talk about "being there" in the lives of their children since being exposed so openly to talking about the importance of beinga father. There is so much power in the simplicity of accepting responsibility. For people of the United States to see the President of the United States at a time when the United Staes is facing so many challenges turn to family, community and responsibility is very comforting . Like President Obama and Roland Warren, my fahter was absent from my life and similarly, I have been motivated by the absence. Thank you for the additional motivation and examples. Can we make significant changes in the lives of children with the help of involved responsible fathers? "YES WE CAN!"


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