“Too many fathers are MIA. Too many fathers are AWOL,” he told a huge African-American congregation in Chicago. “There’s a hole in your heart if you don’t have a male figure in the home that can guide you and lead you and set a good example for you.”
“What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — any fool can have a child,” he said, to applause. “That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”
Obama drew laughs when he talked about gyrating portrayals of him in the media: “That was when I wasn’t black enough. Now I’m too black.” Responding to cheers and applause, he added ruefully, “Y’all remember.”
Obama said parents can’t use lack of government resources as an “excuse” for not doing anything for their children: “As fathers and as parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them, and help them with their homework, and turn off the TV set once in a while, turn off the video game and the remote control and read a book to your child.”
The point about the remote is one Obama often makes on the campaign trail, always to big applause.
Obama met this week with evangelical ministers, and the speech could help him reach out to family-oriented conservatives who remain unenthusiastic about Senator McCain.
Obama’s fatherhood speech was delivered at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, where the crowd overflowed from the 3,000-seat sanctuary into the banquet hall.
Obama’s wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, also attended.
The senator declared that even many two-parent families can do a better job of preparing their children: “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.”
Obama began by saying that too many fathers are “missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes,” having “abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.”
You and I know how true this is in the African-American community,” he said. “We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”
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