Like many American families, I will celebrate Father’s Day today with my wife and children. Over the years, I’ve held many jobs and have had many different responsibilities, but I have never had a job or a role more important than being a father. Parenting seven beautiful and unique children has been one of the great privileges of my life.
Sadly today, many fathers are failing their children. Think about that for a minute. Twenty-four million children are living day-to-day without their fathers. That’s one out of three children. Since when did being a father become optional? In my book, fathers are not optional, they are essential. On Father’s Day, I believe it is time we fathers step up. We need to support young fathers, encourage them, and honor them for taking responsibility and making a commitment to their children.
Research shows that a child raised in a home where Dad is married to Mom is much less likely to live in poverty, get arrested as a juvenile, be suspended or expelled from school, be treated for emotional or behavioral problems, or drop out before completing high school. A Brookings study in 2009 determined that only 2 percent of Americans who work, graduate from high school, and get married before having children end up in poverty. What’s more, 77 percent of these Americans are above the national average in income. And 85 percent of those in the top quintile of income in the U.S. are married.
#more#In too many instances, particularly in our minority communities, children are being raised in broken homes. This is a fact. While there are many heroic single parents, the overwhelming evidence shows that kids benefit strongly from having a mom and a dad. We know that no government social program can produce the same positive outcomes for kids. Healthy marriages and involved fathers, in addition to finding work, are some of the best poverty-fighting strategies out there. We must address the importance of marriage and the challenge of absent fathers head on. Doing so makes sense both for our society and for our economy.
We must support policies that encourage state- and local-level solutions that strengthen marriage and support low-income families so that dads are incentivized to support their children and be involved in their lives. I believe that the best solutions and the best assistance is that which is closest to the challenge being addressed or problem being solved.
Faith-based organizations are a key component to this. Many of these organizations work with fathers to develop the skills necessary to be good husbands and to mentor their children. We cannot transform faith-based and community organizations into bureaucratic arms of the federal government, but instead we must look to devolve resources to state and local governments.
We have wasted decades trying to build bureaucracies to aid the poor in our society while ignoring the central importance of the traditional family. And it’s had an impact. Marriage is declining. In 1960, 72 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and over were married. Today that rate has dropped to 51 percent. We must spend future decades working to build up traditional families. I commend President Barack Obama for being a good father; but his policies help to undermine fatherhood. He promotes dependency upon the government rather than freedom and opportunity. His policies don’t put others in a position to learn the same skills he has. He has turned away from the traditional family in his policies. Moreover, his “evolving” policy position against the traditional family is troubling. Mixed messages are rarely helpful in parenting or in society. Furthermore, his policies have fractured the first economy. Under President Obama, one in six Americans live in poverty and one in four children receive food stamps.
States such as Wisconsin have welfare policies that discourage marriage by denying benefits to married couples. While campaigning in Wisconsin, I learned firsthand how the government is turning its back on marriage. As state senator Glen Grothman has noted, a single woman making $15,000 will lose $38,000 of Wisconsin state benefits if she marries a husband making more than $35,000. While we must continue to support single mothers for their tireless efforts to support their children, we should not be neutral on marriage, let alone support policy that disincentivizes it.
We don’t need more government. We need more fathers. As fathers and as parents we need the courage of our convictions. C. S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” The challenge is always to do what is right. That means as fathers we have an obligation to be committed to our wives and committed to our children.
Taking this to heart will not only produce better families but a better nation. I have been encouraged to hear around the country the voices of those seeking to stand for what is right, beginning with those fathers and mothers who stand for what is right for the benefit of their children, community, and our nation.
As we take time to celebrate our fathers, let’s also remind ourselves of the true value of fathers and family. I am thankful for my father and my grandfather who came to this country because of their desire for freedom and opportunity for their families. Our children are our most precious investment. We owe it to them to be good fathers and, as a nation, to promote policies of freedom and opportunity that support fathers, mothers, and families. This is what will determine our future.
Happy Father’s Day.