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Monday, May 04, 2015

President Obama spoke about growing up without a father - he was at risk for the litany

Freddie Gray of Baltimore is the latest in the litany of police related killings.  He's among the partial list of victims, including Trayvon Martin, in Florida, Eric Garner in Staten Island New York, Michael Brown in St. Louis MO & Tamir Rice in Cleveland, a child who was only 12 years old who was shot by a police officer while he was carrying a water pistol. Freddie Gray lived in a section of Baltimore where boys routinely grow up without fathers. These groups of fatherless young men learn survival skills from one another on the streets, but they don't benefit from having a father in their family. Although many father's fall short of being good providers and role models, the absence of a strong male mentor contributes to the youths thinking there are no authority figures in their world.

By the Grace of God, there was a risk of Barack Obama having the same exposure to police violence.  He spoke about growing up without a father many times, including in an excellent Q & A reported in October 2007, in The New York Times.

Obama talks about growing up without a father  by Jeff Zeleny

WASHINGTON, Iowa – By now, the stump speeches delivered by presidential candidates have become routine, at least to many of the politically inclined voters of Iowa and New Hampshire. 

So the most interesting moments at campaign appearances often are inspired from those seated in the audience.

Near the end of a stop here today, Senator Barack Obama was asked this question from a man seated in the crowd at the Washington County fairgrounds: “What would you say is the most painful and character-building experience of your life that puts you in a position to make important decisions of life and death and the well being of our country?

For a moment or two, Mr. Obama paused. It was far different from the string of questions posed on policies and issues. Finally, he said: “It’s a terrific question.”

And here, in its entirety, is his answer:
“I would say the fact that I grew up without a father in the home. What that meant was that I had to learn very early on to figure out what was important and what wasn’t, and exercise my own judgment and in some ways to raise myself.

My mother was wonderful and was a foundation of love for me, but as a young man growing up, I didn’t have a lot of role models and I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned to figure out that there are certain values that were important to me that I had to be true to.

Nobody was going to force me to be honest. Nobody was going to force me to work hard. Nobody was going to force me to have drive and ambition. Nobody was going to force me to have empathy for other people. But if I really thought those values were important, I had to live them out.

That’s why it’s so important for me now, both as a United States senator and as a president candidate, but also as a father and a husband to wake up every morning and ask myself, am I living up to those values that I say are important? Because if I’m not, then I shouldn’t be president.”

President Obama made a choice to be something other than a young man without a father.  He chose to become motivated and ambitious. I believe all humans have this same capacity to better themselves. Nevertheless, President Obama also had a strong male presence in his home, it was his veteran grandfather.  Inner city  youths need similar guidance and leadership but generations have grown up without this help. Something must be done soon, because, society has already seen the consequences of inaction.

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