Despite a trenchant fight over health care reform, and grappling with an intractable recession, President Barack Obama on June 5 dispatched top White House staffers to Chicago to discuss another important matter on his agenda: Fatherhood.
The officials, including Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith Based Neighborhood Partnerships (FBNP) and Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to Obama's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett), hosted a town hall meeting at the University of Illinois in Chicago. It drew an estimated 500 people to the South Loop, with Black Voices in attendance. Speakers included Rep. Danny K. Davis (D, Illinois), who reflected on growing up with his father, saying it was instrumental in his development.
"When you talk about responsible fatherhood, it gives us the opportunity to explore so many of the issues facing our society and our world," Davis said. "I'm just delighted. So again, I can't commend the president enough."
More About the August 5 Town Hall is Below.
"There is a fair amount of money out there, including a $150 million in Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood Grants in Health and Human Services and there are work force development grants that train dads for jobs," Joshua DuBois said. "But most of this is about personal and family responsibility. No one is suggesting that a federal program can take the place of a dad or a parent. There are various programs that help strength fathers."
Another important aspect of the town hall meetings include lifting up models and learning what works in getting dads off the streets and into their homes, said DuBois. "We're providing networking opportunities so that other organizations can learn from those models."
The Chicago event was co-sponsored by FBNP and the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families. President Obama addressed the crowd via DVD. He reflected on the importance of fatherhood and growing up without a father.
Dozens of social service groups were on hand to provide information for families seeking counseling, job training, cultural adaptation, educational services and mental health counseling.
The event drew both men and women from all walks of life. Shune D. Carr, an ex-con, spoke to the audience about finding a job in spite of the odds and raising his children as a single father when his wife ended up incarcerated.
"I just refused to take no as answer," Carr said of finding employment in spite of his record. He received a standing ovation. "I raised my kids. We didn't always have money, but we had time together. The most precious thing you can give your child is time."
Lamont Burr, a father of six and an ex-con, was one of the attendees. He said he was encouraged to attend the town hall meeting by his job-training counselor. "I want to be a good father," he said. "I think I am, but I can be better given the right kind of support. I think what the President is doing is very inspirational."
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