This is the second of a five-part series on the things that I would do today in order to be assured of a stronger, freer, more prosperous America 20 years from now.
Last week we discussed a radical federal income tax overhaul.
This week we’ll revisit a topic we’ve discussed on previous occasions and I beg your forgiveness. But this is important and it can’t be left out of any plan to improve our nation.
We need to find somebody to re-sell fatherhood.
Prior to the enactment of the provisions of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the mid 1960s, the overall rate of illegitimate birth in the United States was around 15 percent. Among black women, the rate was about 26.5 percent.
Today, nearly one third of all babies born in the United States are born to single mothers and an appalling 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers.
The resulting societal pathology is staggering.
Nearly all of the factors that dissipate a young person’s opportunity for a self-sufficient, happy, productive life can be traced to the lack of a father. Children from fatherless homes are anywhere from five to 32 times more likely to become addicted, to commit suicide, be incarcerated, run away from home or bear an illegitimate child themselves. Children of fatherless homes have only a one-in-three chance of finishing high school while having a nearly three out of five chance of being put in jail. The vast majority of men who are imprisoned for violent felonies came from fatherless homes.
The illiteracy, the poverty, the crime, the drug dependence, the under-employment, the high mortality, the health problems and the general anger born of hopelessness – all problems that have proved themselves to be beyond the reach of billions of taxpayer dollars and countless government programs – would largely solve themselves if the men who impregnate women would stick around post-partum to be a father to their children.
Two days from now will mark the 44th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It was the third and ultimately successful attempt by black marchers to cover the 54 miles from Selma to the state capital in order to demand equal voting rights for black citizens. The route is now marked as a National Historic Trail.
The march was led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and it was not easy. On the first attempt, the marchers were met at the Pettus Bridge by Alabama state and local police where they were subjected to billy clubs and tear gas. Standing up for one’s rights as a black man or woman in 1960s Alabama took courage. Dr. King displayed that courage and today we honor him with a national holiday.
It will take no less courage, and be no less transformative, to stand up and call upon young men, particularly black men, to do the right thing by the children they create. It will take someone with the oratorical skills, the commanding presence, a life that serves as a worthy example and the ability to command national attention to make this case. Finding such a man will not be easy.
Oh, wait. We found him.
His name is Barack Obama. He is married to Michelle, his wife of 16 plus years and they have two little girls that they are raising together.
If the president truly wants to be remembered as one who changed America permanently and profoundly for the better, he can do so without raising taxes or adding to the deficit. He merely needs to step in to the bullyest of bully pulpits and call on young men to follow his example as a father.
No young man, least of all no young black man, can credibly reject Barack Obama’s call to fatherhood. They can’t accuse him of selling out his race or being an Uncle Tom or trying to “keep a brother down.” They can’t accuse Barack Obama of being a puppet of “the man.” Barack Obama is the man.
In order for us to have a freer, stronger, more prosperous nation 20 years from now, I’d have Barack Obama use his exceptional gifts and the historic fact of his election to go ‘all in’ for fatherhood. If ever there was opportunity for a president to make a difference, this is it.