‘There’s a fatherhood awakening under way in the inner city,” Kay Hymowitz announced in her 2006 book, Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age. On Sunday, Father’s Day, in a sermon on fatherhood, Barack Obama signaled that he wants to be a part of the awakening, living it and leading on it. But talk — as welcome as it is — is cheap. Now, Senator, is the time to lead.
Obama, in a sermon to Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, said:
I know what it means to have an absent father, although my circumstances weren’t as tough as they are for many young people today. Even though my father left us when I was two years old, and I only knew him from the letters he wrote and the stories that my family told, I was luckier than most. I grew up in Hawaii, and had two wonderful grandparents from Kansas who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me — who worked with her to teach us about love and respect and the obligations we have to one another. I screwed up more often than I should’ve, but I got plenty of second chances.
And even though we didn’t have a lot of money, scholarships gave me the opportunity to go to some of the best schools in the country. A lot of kids don’t get these chances today. There is no margin for error in their lives. So my own story is different in that way.
It doesn’t have to be different, Senator. You have the opportunity right now to provide opportunities for children in Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., right now, the future of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that serves 1,900 inner-city D.C. children is in doubt. Their congressional “representation,” D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, is leading the effort to kill the program. (Imagine the damage she could do if she were a full-on member of Congress.)
In his Sunday sermon, Obama went on:
We know that education is everything to our children’s future. We know that they will no longer just compete for good jobs with children from Indiana, but children from India and China and all over the world. We know the work and the studying and the level of education that requires.
You know, sometimes I’ll go to an eighth-grade graduation and there’s all that pomp and circumstance and gowns and flowers. And I think to myself, it’s just eighth grade. To really compete, they need to graduate high school, and then they need to graduate college, and they probably need a graduate degree too. An eighth-grade education doesn’t cut it today. Let’s give them a handshake and tell them to get their butts back in the library!
If he means any of that, he will do his part to get their butts in the library in the first place. He will do his part to keep the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program alive. He will do his part to make sure that the 1,900 inner-city children currently served by the program do not have their scholarships taken from them. Eighty-three percent of the children currently in the scholarship program would be attending failing public schools, according to No Child Left Behind standards. How about giving as many kids as possible the opportunity to graduate from high school and college and graduate school? How about not yanking that opportunity from the 1,900 students currently saved from D.C.’s disastrous public schools, which have the highest dropout rate in the nation?
Sen. Obama claims he is all about change. He says he wants to get Washington working differently. He might start by declaring independence from the teachers’ unions. He might start by listening to some voices in the Washington wilderness. He might want to consider being a leader. Talk isn’t enough when you’re a voting member of the United States Congress and you know better than to rip opportunity from children in an urban center with the highest child-poverty rate in the country. Take a chance for a change, Senator Obama.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.