Today at the Apostolic Church of God, Barack Obama spoke about fatherhood. “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,” Obama said.
Obama continued, “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.”
He talked about himself as a father, “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 lesson he talked about was setting an example of excellence, “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…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.”
The second lesson was passing along the value of empathy, “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… 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.”
The third lesson was hope. I’m not talking about an idle hope that’s little more than blind optimism or willful ignorance of the problems we face. I’m talking about hope as that spirit inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better is waiting for us if we’re willing to work for it and fight for it. If we are willing to believe.”
All politicians talk about families and values, but there is an authenticity in Barack Obama that makes him different from the rest. Hillary Clinton couldn’t match it, and John McCain doesn’t even come close. I could never see McCain giving a speech like this one. The one thing that his opponents have not been able solve this year when it comes to Obama is that there is a quality of realness to him.
While the change campaign is a tried and true tactic as old as the hills, the difference is that Obama seems to really believe in it. When Obama spoke about fatherhood, I got the sense that this wasn’t just another politician preaching to us, but instead, here was a man trying to tell us what he thinks it takes to be a good Dad. This is why Obama is special, and why he will probably be the next president of the United States.
You can read Obama’s full speech right here.