Champions of Change: Father's Day


Uploaded by whitehouse on 13.06.2012

Transcript:
Kyle Lierman: How's everybody doing?
Audience: Good!
Kyle Lierman: Welcome to the White House.
My name is Kyle Lierman.
I run the Champions of Change program here for the White House
Office of Public Engagement.
This is a particularly special event.
We're really excited to have you all here today and really
excited about the champions that we're honoring this afternoon.
I want to go ahead and introduce Michael Strautmanis who is a
Senior Counselor of the President for Strategic
Engagement and Valerie Jarrett's deputy.
Michael?
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you, Kyle.
Welcome everybody.
Welcome to the White House.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Father's Day is right around the corner,
so it's our time here at the White House to follow the
President's lead and celebrate and talk about the importance
of fatherhood.
And what we like to do is have events just like this where we
have people who come from all across the country to honor our
fathers, to talk about the importance of this issue,
to lift this up.
And today, we get to do something special.
We get to lift up these ordinary Americans who are doing
extraordinary things, our Champions of Change.
Let's give them a round of applause.
(applause)
So my name is Mike Strautmanis.
And I serve as Deputy Assistant to our dad in chief,
President Barack Obama.
I have had the privilege of knowing and working with the
President for quite a while, about 20 years now.
And I know how important this issue is to him.
He grew up without a father in the home.
And he is working hard everyday to be the best dad that
he can be.
We spent a little bit of time over the years talking
about fatherhood.
He's mentored me.
He's given me tips.
I've shared a few tips of my own with him because I'm a dad.
I have three children.
One of them just graduated from high school yesterday.
(applause)
It was such a blessing to be there with family, with friends,
with loved ones, with the rest of the community.
A lot of moms in the audience, a lot of dads in the audience.
A lot of those who stepped up to help raise these young people.
My son is going on to Columbia College in Chicago.
And we're so proud of him.
But you know, I'm proud of my other children as well.
I have a 15 year old child who's autistic,
a child with special needs.
His needs and want he needs are such that he's not able to
live with us.
He lives in a residential facility geared toward teenagers
who are dealing with autism.
And I have a six year old little girl who allows me to get up and
go to work every single day.
That's the real boss of the family.
And obviously, I can't forget about my very patient and
lovely wife.
And so these are the things that we talk about here at
the White House.
My boss, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and the
woman who runs the Office of Public Engagement and
Intergovernmental Affairs, she's a mom.
Her daughter is getting married this weekend.
And so we share these things with each other.
These are jobs that are tremendous honors.
But they're also a little bit time consuming.
And so juggling work and family is something that is so much a
part of our lives.
And we try to put fatherhood and the importance of fatherhood in
the forefront.
And I know that's what you do.
This is not just happening at the personal level.
This has to be a part of our shared work.
And across the country, leaders are shaping the way our nation
thinks about fathers and fatherhood,
pulling the various levers that they can to connect fathers to
their families and lift up the importance of fatherhood in
our culture.
So we could have brought in really thousands,
maybe tens of thousands of individuals in the White House
to celebrate.
But we've chosen ten.
And we want to honor these folks as Champions of Change,
a title that reflects all of you in this room.
And I just want to say how grateful we all are that you've
taken time away from your lives, from your workplaces,
from the leadership positions that you hold to come share with
us and spend some time with us.
Also, I just want to lift up the young people that we have in
the audience.
These are some well behaved children.
Let's give them a round of applause.
(applause)
I don't know about my young ones.
We might have had them upstairs.
On this first panel, we're going to hear about people impacting
fatherhood on the national level.
I'm going to join them and help moderate this panel.
We want to know, to our champions,
we want to know what you're working on.
But more importantly, of equal importance actually,
we just want to hear your story.
We want to hear why you do the great work that you do.
Our first five champions are Roland Warren,
President of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Raise your hand, Roland.
(applause)
I've worked with many of these folks before.
They're humble.
So you got to push them a little bit to get a little attention.
Carey Casey, CEO of The National Center for Fathering.
Jerry Tello, Director of National Latino Fatherhood and
Family Institute.
(applause)
John Sowers, President of The Mentoring Project.
(applause)
And Barbara Williams-Skinner, President of the Skinner
Leadership Institute.
(applause)
All right.
Scoot over, folks.
Let's get started.
So Roland -- now, look.
He's giving me a shot over here about the Chicago Bears.
We try and keep this thing friendly now.
Roland, you're President of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
That's a great name, great name of an organization.
Why don't we just start by telling us about
your organization.
Why don't you tell us what NFI does and how did you get started
with this important work?
Roland Warren: Sure, absolutely.
Well, first off, thanks very much.
Appreciate the award on behalf of all the folks that are doing
fatherhood work.
It's just an honor to be with you today.
Also, just want to acknowledge my wife who's not here, Yvette,
who had a big hand in me becoming a father in
the first place.
Dr. Williams-Skinner: Yeah!
Roland Warren: And my two initiatives are sitting over there in the back,
Jamin and Justin.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: As I've often heard, fatherhood begins at home.
Roland Warren: Absolutely.
That's right.
So I'm glad to be here.
But in terms of the National Fatherhood Initiative,
we're an organization that started back in 1994 really
raising awareness about the number of kids who were growing
up without dads.
For those of you who have been doing this work a long time,
some longer than me, you know that certainly we didn't talk as
much about fathers as it pertained to the well-being
of children.
And in the early '90s, people really started connecting the
dots between some of the most intractable social ills
affecting kids and the presence or absence of involved
responsible and committed fathers.
So the National Fatherhood Initiative really basically is a
capacity builder for organizations.
We help organizations move from inspiration to implementation in
terms of doing fatherhood work.
We're one of the leading providers of fatherhood
resources in the country.
So we know that a key to engagement,
which is a great word, is skills.
And where you're more skilled, you'll be more engaged.
So whether you're a father who is, you know,
a working dad who's out in the workplace and needs some skills
in terms of how to be a new dad or a better dad or whether
you're an incarcerated father, we do all that work.
And we're just delighted to have an opportunity to help the
nation around this issue.
I'll just end with this one last thing.
I'm fond of saying that kids have a hole in their soul in the
shape of their dad.
I really believe that.
I believe God whispers into the wombs of their mothers that
there's this guy who should love them like no other.
And when he doesn't it can leave a wound that's not
easily healed.
And in a sense, I grew up without my dad.
And I'm a bit of a wounded soul, which is why I do the work
that I do.
So this is really important work,
in terms of connecting the hearts of fathers to their kids.
And so we're delighted to be here, to be honored,
and certainly most of all, just to have the privilege to
do this work.
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you.
Thank you, Roland.
(applause)
I think you've gotten us off to a good start here,
the kind of spirit that we're looking for.
So I'm going to ask Carey to keep that going.
Why don't you tell us about what the National Center on
Fathering does.
Carey Casey: Right.
Michael, good to be with you.
And as Roland stated, we're humbled and honored to be where
we are today.
A dear friend just now sitting in the audience,
Joe Jones who's the President of the National Fatherhood Leaders
Group, he shared with me, he said, Carey, remind them,
teams when championships.
And you must play your position and stay in your lane.
And as I look in the audience today,
I'm so very excited as all of us partner,
meeting many of my friends here today.
Any of you could sit where we're sitting today.
But I think about the great privilege of being there at the
national center for fathering and CEO.
I share with people, CEO stands for Chief Encouragement Officer.
So I have a wonderful team there and board of directors and
wonderful folks, Dr. Ken Canfield who started the center
back in 1990.
But I think about this Champions of Change,
Michael and winning for the future.
The umbrella of everything we do at the National Center for
Fathering is championship fathering.
In my book that came out in 2009,
there's three basic thoughts that we have,
research that comes out of a championship father.
Thousands of dads, three things clearly come out.
They're loving.
They love the child.
And they love the child's mother,
even if they're divorced.
The child still needs their dad, just like Roland stated,
that wound or the dad not being there.
But the father still needs to be involved in loving
their children.
But then, the second tenet is that they coach their children.
I played ball a hundred years ago at that great basketball
school, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
But anyway --
Michael Strautmanis: Here we go.
Carey Casey: That's why I wore this tie, Michael.
But anyway, thinking about it -- the President now and then.
But I think about this, they coach their children.
They are aware and they're involved in their child's lives.
A dear friend, Tony Dungy, who does a lot with fathering,
he shared that a good coach is involved and he's aware of
his players.
And that's what we find in our research.
But not only that, but they also model for their children.
You don't just preach it, get to going as long as I would here,
but you model for your children.
Love, coach, and model.
But then you also encourage a child without a dad.
And think of the young people in your neighborhood that does not
have a dad.
And so we have the opportunity to encourage.
But then we enlist other dads.
That's why I love it.
Championship fathering and thinking about this honor today
that we have to be a part of what's taking place.
But that's a lot of what we do.
Michael Strautmanis: I appreciate that.
Please, give him a round of applause.
(applause)
One of the things that we've done here in the White House
under the leadership of President Obama is we have sent
members of his cabinet out across the country to talk about
this issue.
The Attorney General, Eric Holder,
went to Atlanta to talk about fathers and the criminal
justice system.
And I was with Secretary Arne Duncan when he went to New
Hampshire to talk about education and fathers.
There's an organization that I've gotten to know well called
WATCH D.O.G.S.
Carey, I know that you support and work with that organization.
It's an organization that finds just small ways for dads to get
involved in their schools, in the schools itself,
bringing fathers into the schoolhouse to be a presence.
Just to follow up, can you tell us a little bit about the kind
of impact that this organization has had to get dads volunteering
in their local schools?
Carey Casey: I am so excited.
My WATCH D.O.G. staff emailed me today, Carey --
be sure and tell them to be involved in their
children's schools.
And we love it.
It's one of our strongest programs at The National Center
for Fathering, WATCH D.O.G.S.
And Eric Snow is our National Director.
If you do anything today, go to fathers.com/watchdogs.
And they take one day out of the year where they're involved in
their children's schools, another set of eyes eat lunch
with the kids if you will, read to the kids.
My bride is sitting here today.
She's a second grade teacher.
And I have the privilege to be a WATCH D.O.G. at her school.
One of my greatest thrills was a while back.
I was at the school with my blue jeans on and my WATCH D.O.G.
shirt, sitting there doing flashcards in the hallway with
two students, a boy and a girl.
And a young lady walks out of a classroom,
about the third grade.
And she stops and she looks.
And she says, "Hi, Mr. Watchdog."
She didn't say CEO or whatever.
But thinking about that, that was one of my proudest moments.
But it's an awesome program.
We're in about 2400 schools.
Our vision, we would love to be in every school in the country.
And I would challenge you to be a part.
When a dad is involved in a child's education, they do much,
much better.
And we have had, over the past year,
200,000 fathers involved in their children's education
through WATCH D.O.G.S.
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you.
Thank you very much.
(applause)
You know, next I want to turn this over to Jerry Tello.
Jerry, why don't you tell us a little bit about your work in
the Hispanic community.
But more broadly, I know you're working in California and you
really -- my sense is you want to meet dads and families
where they are.
Meet them where they are and provide the kind of help and
services that they need in their lives as they're being
lived today.
Can you tell us a little bit about that work?
Jerry Tello: Sure.
Thank you for the invitation and the award as well.
Let me just begin by thanking the Creator for this opportunity
to be here.
You know, we recognize in our culture that you always honor
four directions.
And one direction is the direction of the men.
But directly across is the direction of the women.
And we recognize that there's no men without women.
But in between those two directions, the children fall.
And whatever happens between the men and women,
the children get it.
If there's happiness, they get it.
If there's resentment, if there's pain, they get it.
But we also recognize that fourth direction was the
direction of the elders.
And so a lot of the work that we do is really looking at those
teachings of our ancestors, of our elders,
recognizing there's a sacredness in all of us.
There's a sacredness in men too.
There's a sacredness that sometimes gets lost
because of wounds.
And there are many fathers that don't show up because
fathers have wounds.
So the work that we do is reaching out to those men that
have wounds, those men that need to recover, need to uncover,
need to discover that sacredness again,
to recognize that they need to show up, that they have a place,
they have a sacred place.
And when they don't show up, their children feel something.
But many of these fathers and grandfathers that we see didn't
have a dad either.
Many of the men that we work with,
we become the voice really for many men that are working in
fields, many men that are working in restaurants,
many men that are working day labor,
many men that are coming out of institutions,
many men that are in the streets and want to get out the streets
but don't know how to connect to their fathers.
We are the voice for them.
We are the channel for them.
We create circles.
We create places where men can come without shame to help to
heal because there are many wounded fathers out there.
And you can give them skills.
You can give them tools.
But if it sits on wounds, then they give that to
their children.
And so part of the work that we do,
not only in California but nationally --
and we're an organization that's been around since 1988.
And that group really started with a group of men that saw a
lot of pain in our communities, a lot of pain that came not only
from poverty but from racism, discrimination,
and a whole lot of other wounds that we still see going
on today.
And we hit those things straight on.
But we take responsibility as men reaching for other men.
But at the same time, in our traditional culture,
there's no child without a father.
Because some men go away and their father is killed at war or
killed in the streets or killed some place else or is wounded so
bad that he really can't show up.
And it is in our cultural way -- it's actually in everyone's
cultural way that when a boy is there,
a girl is there and needs a man, somebody steps up.
Somebody says I can't be your father but I can be your uncle,
you can be my relative.
And I learned that in my own home.
In my own home, my mother would say this is your aunt,
this is your uncle.
I had six grandmothers.
I don't know how I got six grandmothers.
Just anybody with gray hair, you call Nana.
And anybody that your parents said was your uncle
and your aunt.
And anybody who was your age was your cousin.
And so we made relatives.
That's part of what we do.
And so part of the work that we do --
and we have curriculum, evidence based and all that.
We have all those things and programs that we can do.
And capacity building, we do across the nation.
And we focus on all populations.
But a lot of times, we get called to work with the Latino
population because it's not really the work that's been
done historically.
And especially with a 45% increase in demographics and
everything, there's a significant need to work with
that population because there are a lot of resiliency factors
that are there around traditions and customs and values.
But my inspiration really -- you asked about that --
really came from my family and seeing,
in spite of living in Compton, in spite of poverty and drugs
and all of that, seeing a family that tried to do for their kids,
seeing a father that attempted to do the best,
seeing a grandmother to bless me everyday regardless if I did
good in school.
And then I'm blessed to have three children, Marcos, Renee,
and Emilio.
But my latest inspiration is my little granddaughter.
John Sowers: Oh, look at that.
Jerry Tello: So I carry her shoes, Amara, because -- she calls me Tata.
And the thing is, in a traditional way,
we say that whatever we do will affect seven generations.
What we have to do now is be cognizant of whatever we do --
we tell men, whatever you say, whatever you do --
will affect children for seven generations.
But imagine if you do something beautiful.
Imagine if you do something sacred.
Imagine if you do something wholesome.
That too will affect seven generations.
So we're very, very honored to do this work.
And you know we -- you can go on our website too.
I'm not here to promote our program.
But we are also -- part of the work we do is collaboration with
other groups and other organizations.
We are working to bring men and boys of color together as well.
Because in many, many communities,
there's a struggle in that as well.
There's violence and struggling that's going on.
And we want to reach back and reclaim those young boys that
have been claimed by institutions,
have been claimed by drugs.
We want to reclaim it.
We want men to stand up, step up, and say, no,
you are ours now, come back home, come back home.
There are men here ready to guide and love you.
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you, Jerry.
(applause)
You know, I want to take just a moment here,
break away from the panel a bit.
Do we have our military dads here?
Let's honor First Lieutenant William Edwards,
named as National Fatherhood Initiative's National Military
Dad of the Year.
(applause)
I think we have a plaque.
Can you take a quick picture.
And please, everybody.
All right, terrific.
Lieutenant Edwards.
(applause)
Can I put you on the spot?
I heard you just came from a pretty cool lunch.
Why don't you step up here to the microphone,
take one minute to tell us about your lunch and talk about
your award.
First Lt. Edwards: Well, I just came from lunch with President Obama.
(applause)
Thank you.
It was me and three other fathers.
They're all right down over here.
We went out for barbecue, and it was pretty cool.
(laughter)
So I'm very honored to be presented with this award,
2012 Military Fatherhood Award.
I just wanted to thank a few people actually for this award.
NFI, you know, President Roland, Vince DiCaro, Renae Smith.
They've been very helpful through this whole process.
I don't know if anybody really knows kind of what the
award was.
For the last month, America's been voting for the Military
Fatherhood Award on Facebook.
So I won through Facebook the Military Fatherhood Award,
oddly enough.
(applause)
But I would like to thank Ben O'Dell, Patrick Patterson.
You know, they hooked us up here in D.C.
It's been a great time.
Obviously all the sponsors and family and friends on the
Facebook community, you know, voting, Chicago style,
early and often.
(laughter)
Thank my father-in-law, Al Peterson.
He told my wife about the award.
She put me in for it.
So shout out to him.
A lot of things in my life made me the man that I am,
a lot of events and people.
But my parents are here.
Mom and Dad, can you stand up?
This is Russ and Kathy Edwards.
(applause)
Thank you, Mom and Dad.
I would like to thank my beautiful wife, Esther.
We just had our 13th wedding anniversary two days ago.
So she's here.
She's put up with me through a lot for the last 13 years.
But she's always been by my side,
always supported me in everything I do.
And I really wouldn't be the father to my four kids that I am
today without her support.
So thank you.
(applause)
And of course, I just wanted to say thank you to my
Heavenly Father above.
You know, he's blessed me so much through my life,
given me four beautiful children.
And you know, Lord, I just pray that people would glorify you
because of me.
So I thank you.
Thank you.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you for your service.
Thank you for being such a great dad.
And congratulations to you.
First Lt. Edwards: Appreciate it.
Thank you.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: And of course, the First Lady and Dr. Biden would want me to
give just another round of applause to the family.
When one person goes off to serve,
the whole family goes off to serve.
So we deeply honor and appreciate your service.
Thank you so much.
(applause)
Well, let's see if we can top that.
And I think I have a way to do it.
Let's go to Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner.
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner: You would not do that.
(laughter)
Michael Strautmanis: You know, doctor, you're here on this panel as a woman who is
personally and professionally passionate about this work of
supporting fathers and families.
And you're such a leader in the faith community.
You're such a leader in the community here in D.C.
And you're such a leader nationally.
Tell us why fatherhood, why this work is important to you,
considering where you stand and the important national work
that you do.
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner: Well, thank you so much.
And I want to thank Joshua DuBois, yourself Michael,
and especially Paul Montero who I've worked with since this
program began at the outset of the Obama administration for
this award.
I'm really grateful.
I'm humbled by that.
As a strong African American woman,
I grew up without a father.
And as I'm looking -- you know, I'm thinking about people who
complain about their fathers.
I'm like a bad dad would be better than no dad.
But the reality is that I grew up at a time when each child was
everybody's child.
I lived in a neighborhood where, wherever you went out,
there was somebody out in the neighborhood who had the
opportunity, responsibility, to stand in for your parents.
And you hated every moment of it.
Every neighbor could chastise you,
anyone on the street who was part of that community.
That does not exist today.
There were men in my life.
Even though I didn't have a father, didn't know my father,
there were people.
My mother had guys who were part of my extended family.
When I got an award or did something at school,
they would show up as my uncles.
Half of them, I don't even know their last names.
But they were there.
And so it provided what the absence of a father would have
provided for a girl especially, a sense of safety,
a sense of security.
The first guy who tells you you're cute should be
your father.
It should not be a guy other than your father.
And so I had that.
But I must agree with Roland Warren that there's still,
even though I had a phenomenal mother,
my first teacher who didn't get past the 8th grade,
a God fearing woman who told me every day you could be anything
you wanted to be, and I believed her.
But she could never be one thing, and that's a father.
And so I believe that -- there are a couple of things that I
suggest to men who say have left their wives or they never
were married.
It's very important for children to know that they didn't do
anything wrong, that they're not the reason why you left.
Because children grow up with this feeling that they blew it.
If they hadn't been bad, dad wouldn't have left.
And that -- I don't care how many awards you get or how far
you get in school, Michael, that stays with you.
Secondly, I liked what the brother at the end said,
that men in schools create order.
I applaud single-parent women all over the country like
my mother.
They have made the difference.
They've stood in the gap.
But I don't think they can ever provide the kind of authority,
the kind of structure, the kind of ark of safety that
men provide.
And I'm saying that as a strong African American woman.
There's a male/female balance that's missing in that child.
So I'm really happy today, Michael,
to be able to sort of stand in the gap.
I'm like Roland Warren.
I'm sort of a wounded warrior, a wounded healer if you will.
And so I have the opportunity every day to be part of Ballou
High School here in Washington, D.C.
Now, Ballou is a school that many have written
off completely.
It's statistics.
Police are parked down the street.
They expect the kids to go to jail or to be killed.
And some of us have just said no.
That's not God's way.
And so we're there bringing in jobs and after school mentoring
and connecting the young men with the presence of
caring adults.
One thing I noticed, seven years ago when I was at the school,
there was so much disorder.
It was almost scary to be there.
I noticed today, with the presence of more men in the
hallways, the presence of the principal,
the associate principal, they stand in the hallway.
They know the kids by name.
The pants go up.
The combs are out of the hair, you know.
The girls have their, you know, all their body closed
up, you know.
Nothing's exposed.
I mean, they have developed a caring structure that the
kids respect.
You have to be around to do that.
You cannot send a check to get that kind of rapport with
children who are hurting.
And the prisons are filled with people without fathers.
Teenagers are pregnant without fathers.
Sociological statistics could be reversed by the presence
of fathers.
So I'm more than excited about being here.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: I think you all would say I made a good choice turning it
over there.
Thank you so much for those comments.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I want to turn this over to
John Sowers.
John, you were with us three years ago when we
launched this work.
It was the 100th anniversary of Father's Day in this country.
And we had an event in the East Room at the White House with the
President, with the Vice President of the United
States to talk about it.
You were there.
Your organization, The Mentoring Project, was there.
Tell us, now looking back, about that event and how that event
affected you, affected your organization,
and affected your work.
John Sowers: Thank you.
Thanks so much for having me.
It's an honor to be here.
That event was really -- I caught myself barely on
the video.
I could see it, and I'm nodding the whole time.
I'm just doing this and I almost look silly because I'm just
amen-ing it in my heart.
That moment for me was catalytic as well as galvanizing of my own
personal calling.
Someone like us, Roland said this,
growing up without a father -- no bitterness toward him,
but he just wasn't around.
When I heard President Obama say his dad wasn't around,
I began to relate.
And I began to hear.
And I felt like President Obama was saying, I'm with you,
I'm here with you, we're locking arms in this and let's do this.
And so I left that room on fire, excited,
and feeling like the fatherless and the fatherhood conversation
is getting its rightful place in its country.
I watch the news and I get so upset.
I'm like foreign policy is important,
the economy is important.
But what about fatherhood?
Why don't we make that a voting issue?
Why don't we see what Presidents are doing for this issue.
And I'll vote for that.
So I left that day and I got so fired up and so passionate.
And from that day, we began to look and we began seeing the
fatherless story all around us.
In one high school in Memphis, with the 90 teenage pregnant
girls, in my old hometown in Los Angeles and the gangs of Los
Angeles and the current gangs of Chicago where I used to live on
the North Shore, begin seeing these things and say,
how do we rewrite the fatherless story?
How do we change this?
How do we begin to see and capture these kids,
mentor these kids, show up in these kids' lives before the
gang leaders do?
How do we change the future of our country?
How do we do this?
And for us, it really was about mentoring these kids.
You spoke, Jerry, about woundedness.
These kids have been wounded the most in relationship.
When dad leaves, something dies.
And there's a wound that takes place.
And we began to say, you know, if these kids have been wounded
in relationship, what would happen if we began the healing
there in relationship?
And that's where a mentor steps in.
For us, it's my great joy.
And I wish all of my mentors and every monitor in this country
could be up here right now.
But it's my great joy to see mentors as the quiet heroes of
the movement, mentors that step into kids' lives faithfully
every day and say I'm with you, the same way that God steps into
our lives at Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us.
A mentor steps in and says, I'm with you, I'm with you.
And you don't have to be cool.
You don't have to be smart.
You don't have to be rich or have a job to show up in
a kid's life.
But when you do that, it makes a huge difference.
And so we as an organization at The Mentoring Project,
we call men and women to show up in kids' lives.
And we say, what would happen if we showed up in every kids' life
that needs it?
In Portland Oregon where we're based,
there's 2,400 kids on waiting lists for mentors.
Twenty-four hundred.
And these are single moms.
A lot of them are heroic moms.
And we said, what if we ended that list?
What if each one of these kids had a mentor?
So we're a few hundred in there.
We're doing the same thing in other cities across the country.
And we're just calling naively and maybe a little bit crazily
enough to say what if we end the list all over the country of men
and women who, like Joshua, is a mentor of -- 8 years?
Speaker: Ten years.
John Sowers: Ten years a mentor, Big Brother.
What if all of us follow Joshua and other's example and stepped
into these kid's lives?
How would that rewrite the fatherless story?
And so that's our passion.
It's a great joy to advocate for these kids.
It's the honor of my life to stand for them and give voice to
those who have no voice, fatherless kids,
and to say how can we change that.
And so that's what we do at The Mentoring Project.
We recruit and train mentors.
And we're honored.
And we're excited and we're humbled to stand and that this
administration is standing for the same thing.
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you, John.
(applause)
I want to follow up and talk a little bit more with you
about mentoring.
The First Lady runs the mentoring program here at
the White House.
Actually, she runs the mentoring program for young ladies and I
run a mentoring program here at the White House for young men.
And you can see who gets the better deal out of that bargain.
It's okay.
You all are thinking it.
I understand.
We just actually had a graduation for our 40 young
people with this mentoring class this week.
And it's been a joy.
I keep hearing from these White House staff people who come up
and they give me updates about the young people that
they're mentoring.
This one got into college, this one is dealing with this issue.
And I know through their eyes that they're getting as much or
probably more out of this mentoring relationship as the
young people that we bring in here.
But give us a little conversation.
We have so many people here in the audience from so many
different walks of life.
Everybody's busier.
Everybody's working harder.
And I know that sometimes mentoring can seem a
little daunting.
Tell us a little bit about how you bring mentors into
your program.
And give us some lessons learned on what works.
John Sowers: Probably the smartest thing I did was plagiarize a book called
Championship Fathering.
And that was written by Carey Casey to my right.
And Carey talks a lot about what translates, I think,
to good fathers translates to good mentors.
And the first thing is mentors win by showing up.
You show up.
You show up.
I said everyone can do it.
I would venture to say that the people that mean the most to you
in your life, each person in this room,
you could think of a person that showed up in your life.
For me it was my grandmother.
Everyday after school -- she raised me.
She showed up.
She was first in line.
She would be in the car.
I would come out of sports practice,
whether that's football or whatever.
And she would have this frozen Gatorade slushie in a jar.
And it was wrapped in aluminum foil.
And she would always say something like you're such a
right handsome young man, you know.
And she would hand me this Gatorade.
Everyday.
When I went to college, she wrote me a letter.
She found how to be present in my life, even when I was away.
She wrote me a letter once a week on a Monet print,
a full card about how she loved me and was praying for me and
sent me ten dollars.
She did that through seminary, when I was at Trinity in Chicago
and then into my doctored at Gordon-Conwell.
She showed up in my life faithfully from the time I was
two years old.
And I would say that's true of all of us.
Those that mean the most to us are those that have showed up
in our lives.
Same thing for those that maybe have wounded us the most,
those who have left or those who've abandoned us,
like you spoke of, Jerry.
And so the first place that mentors have to do --
and I think that's very encouraging,
because mentors get burned out sometimes when you wonder,
am I doing the right thing, is this making a difference?
But as you show up, what begins to happen is this relationship,
you find out where they are in college and you begin to learn
about them.
And you're texting and you're talking about the game.
Did you see D. wade last night and some of these things.
And when you show up, that's the basis.
And then you begin to model integrity and sincerity and
humility like Tony Dungy does so well.
And then you begin coaching.
You get this sacred place to speak into their lives.
At the end of the movie "Up", it's the most brilliant piece of
writing I've ever seen.
And I won't talk about it too much because it makes me cry.
And my friends make fun of me for crying on a cartoon.
But I do it.
At the end of the movie --
Michael Strautmanis: I cried at that point too.
John Sowers: That's right.
At the end of the movie -- it's an older gentleman,
and he's been showing up in this kid's life the whole movie.
The kid wanted his Helping the Elderly badge because if he got
his badge -- it was like Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts.
If he got his badge, his dad would show up.
And the old man realized -- he softened, and he said,
this is a boy that doesn't have a dad.
So our generation is longing for the blessing of a dad.
They're longing for the blessing.
This boy was longing for the blessing of his father.
So he's up on stage, end of the movie.
The old man has shown up for him the whole movie.
And every kid is up there with his dad.
The boy is up there alone.
That's a perfect picture to me of this generation.
He's up there alone.
The announcer gets to him.
It's awkward.
All of a sudden, you hear the old man come out on stage.
And he says, I'm here for him.
I'm with you.
Presence.
Brilliant.
He walks out, he gives the boy a button.
He salutes him and basically says, I believe in you,
I'm proud of you.
I'm with you.
I believe in you.
I'm proud of you.
That's it.
And it makes me cry because I watch and I say, that is it,
speaking the words of blessing like you spoke of, doctor,
speaking into this child's life.
That's the most brilliant picture of mentoring I've
ever seen.
I'm with you.
I believe in you.
I'm proud of you.
And that's it.
You can boil it down to these things and that makes all the
difference in the world.
Thank you, Michael.
Michael Strautmanis: Sure.
Thank you, John.
Roland, I know you wanted to add to that.
Why don't you speak to mentoring.
I'm going to raise one more question after that and we're
going to go to the next panel.
Roland, please.
Roland Warren: I just wanted to sort of add to that because I think that's very
powerful, what John said.
And you know, candidly, if you look at the data,
there's 17 million kids that need mentors.
There are about four million mentors.
And the dirty little secret is that frankly,
most of the mentors are not men.
And most of these kids who are waiting for mentors,
the vast majority of them are boys that are looking for men to
connect with them.
And my view is that, you know, a key to changing that strategy is
helping fathers define what it means to be a father more
broadly in this day and time.
And what I mean by that is that a good father, you know,
you provide, nurture, and guide your own children.
That's what good fathers do.
And that's what's been said many times here is sort of a model,
from my perspective, a Christian perspective,
a heavenly father who does the same kind of thing.
The other thing that a good father does is he's a father to
the fatherless.
I know that that, from a transactional perspective,
can be a little difficult to do.
But the reality is that what you need to do, frankly,
is not to look out but look down and around.
And what I mean by that is that there's a kid within your own
circle of influence that could use a father's touch.
And we started an initiative a couple years ago called Double
Duty Dads.
You can go to our website, which is fatherhood.org,
and you can get a downloadable free resource to help
you do that.
But if you just think about that for a second,
what really makes mentoring work is if you have a long-term
sustainable trusting relationship with a primary
caregiver, which tends to be a mom,
and if you have a long-term sustained and trusting
relationship with the child.
Now, if that child is within your circle of influence,
in other words, your niece, your nephew,
the neighbor next door's kid, someone in your church.
I mean, you think about it.
In most churches, what's the connection between men's
ministry and the children's ministry?
We know about the orphans and the widows.
But the fact of the matter is that a lot of those are right
down the hall from us in church and we don't make
that connection.
So from my standpoint, a very practical way to really turn the
corner -- there are 24 million kids growing up without dads and
we have 65 million fathers.
If each dad just looks within their own circle of influence
for kids that need a father's touch,
that would turn the corner on that.
The other thing I think that's really powerful about this --
and I'll close with this -- is that it's difficult to be what
you don't see.
Difficult to be what you don't see.
Not impossible, but difficult to be what you don't see.
See a little boy needs to see what fathering looks like.
And when you're a father who mentors --
you're not coming in to be that kid's father.
You're coming in to show him what a loving father looks like,
feels like, interacts with, what that means.
It casts a vision for him.
And when a little girl sees that, she understands, oh,
this is what I should look for.
Can help her find her prince without kissing all the
toads okay.
So I really believe that one of the key strategies around
mentoring is really mobilizing our nation's dads against our
nation's fatherless.
And I think it's a powerful strategy that,
I think if dad's just do that, reach one kid within their own
circle of influence, it will be transformative.
Michael Strautmanis: Thank you.
Let's do this.
We have people in the audience.
Many of you are part of the fatherhood field.
But many of you are not.
Many of you are in business.
Some may be in government.
Some are in social service fields and others.
Can I have our panelists give some advice to the people in our
audience about how they can join this movement and pull this
work forward?
Just some simple things that people who are not in the
fatherhood field can do?
Dr. Williams-Skinner: I would say as a woman, it's really very important for
fathers -- men.
You're impacting the way women see themselves,
the way they mother their children, by not being there.
So if you want to grow up in an environment where you're scared
of 10-year-olds and 14-year-olds,
then don't show up.
But if we want to reverse this --
and we can, we've got so many examples --
I think there are a couple things that you can do.
First of all, most people are wasting a lot of time.
Thirty-five hours a week on television.
You know, beyond NBA playoffs --
(laughter)
Michael Strautmanis: It's getting uncomfortable over here.
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner: Beyond the NBA playoffs, there's not a whole lot that's
really important.
NFL is over.
So I think, look at your schedule and ask yourself is
every hour of CSI and NCIS really critical for
your presence?
And ask yourself can you afford to just give one hour a week?
Don't start an organization, because they're already there.
They're in the room.
Connect with those.
The other issue is houses of faith can do a little bit more
in this area of partnering with the fatherhood initiatives.
A lot of the houses of faith -- I know our church and others
don't necessarily connect with organizations like Roland
Warren's or Casey's.
Could do a lot better.
But I just think that the issue is you have 168 hours a week,
you have to do a little time budget.
You have to ask yourself is every hour of --
football is over.
So you've got a lot of time.
And, you know, Thunder are going to win so don't worry.
So once you get over that --
(laughter)
-- once you get over that, then you've got a lot of time.
And just think, all of your time is your Creator's time,
because if he didn't give you another breath you
wouldn't have it.
So what can you do with the Creator's time to care for
changing the paradigm about how children and how young boys and
girls view themselves.
Michael Strautmanis: That's wonderful.
You know, I often think about what the President has said
about this issue.
As we often talk about this issue as one that only folks who
are struggling with some disadvantages,
it's an issue around people, it's a middle-class issue.
It's all classes have to deal with this.
And he often says -- sometimes he says it to me --
you can turn off SportsCenter.
You don't have to watch that second loop of SportsCenter.
You can turn that off and pick up a book and spend time we
either your child or a child that, as Roland has said,
is in your circle.
Casey, do you have anything to add to that?
Carey Casey: I would think also, in our society today with social media,
thinking about how we all have tweeting, Facebooking,
all of this, just like Barbara was stating, you all,
we need to be one another's greatest fans right here in the
room as we in fact -- social media, websites, fathers.com,
and all of us guys here, Jerry and John and all of us here,
Roland as well as Barbara and your own organizations.
I ask a lot of folks that were involved in the Civil Rights
Movement -- in fact, my daddy, August 28, 1963,
he was here when a man talked about his dream.
My daddy had a dream for me.
But I think about it.
Dr. King was talking about public accommodations and all of
us having the rights and privileges.
But I hope that my children will one day live in a culture and a
country where they're not judged by the color of their skin but
the content of their character.
But I asked his colleagues today,
some that even trained me, how did you all get the word out?
How did you all network?
You didn't have cellphones and all of this.
Barbara talked about it.
She talked about it just now, turning SportsCenter off and
all of this.
But we have to be on one another's websites.
Fathers.com, go there.
Get the information.
I'm so very thankful that we have a team in this room --
and I'm in NFL locker rooms, the Bears and all of
them -- Da Bears.
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner: You need a lot of help.
(laughter)
Carey Casey: White players, black players.
But when they put that uniform on,
I love praying with them before they go on the field.
And they don't care where you have come from or what town.
But we're wearing the same uniform.
And after you pray and they break that huddle,
they do not think, even if they're the Washington Redskins,
that they might lose or whatever, you know.
Michael Strautmanis: It's getting uncomfortable.
It's getting uncomfortable.
All right.
Hang on now.
Speaker: But the social media, if you will, as we come together there,
that's a great way we can take advantage of it.
Not watching other things, but in fact the websites,
and the helps that each have.
Michael Strautmanis: Joshua, come help me out.
Joshua DuBois: Hey, Mike.
We have a special guest, the Secretary of Education of the
United States of America, Arne Duncan.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: You came just in time, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary Arne Duncan: I'll be quick to get back to the real show.
But I'm thrilled to be here and just want to appreciate
everybody for their hard work and their commitment in
this area.
And obviously one of the joys of my job is I get to travel the
country and visit young people in elementary schools and middle
schools and high schools around the nation.
And you have some times where it gives you great hope and a great
sense of inspiration.
And you have other places where you feel the real challenge of
what our kids are facing.
And I just can't overstate -- and obviously I'm preaching to
the choir here -- how important it is for more dads to step up
and be part of their children's lives.
And we have young people literally crying out, asking --
from our toughest high schools.
I sit down and talk to these young men and women.
They say my life would be totally different if my father
was involved in their life.
So for all of you who are helping to bring dads back into
the families, all of you who are making that tangible difference,
I want to thank you so much for that.
I went to -- as Josh said -- and Josh is doing a great,
great job leading this effort.
I have a ten-year-old daughter, an eight-year-old son.
My daughter had a band concert last night.
And we went, it was a great time.
I don't know if she's going to go play in an orchestra someday,
but she loves playing the clarinet.
And we've managed to survive at home this year with her
practicing the clarinet.
(laughter)
But I had literally three or four people come up and say,
you know, we know how busy you are,
it's so nice that you're here.
And on one hand it was really nice to hear that.
On the other hand, I just think we sort of have this dummying
down of expectations.
This is my child.
I'm supposed to be here.
I mean, there's nothing more important I could be doing.
And for this to be the one band concert for the year,
for me to have something else more important,
that's sort of unfathomable to me.
And somehow, I think for all of us,
we've sort of given us as dads a pass somehow.
It just didn't quite make sense.
So it actually bothered me a little bit.
And so I just want to challenge all of you to do
everything you can.
If we want strong schools, if we want strong communities,
we are not going to get there, we are not going to get there
until we have a heck of a lot more dads actively involved.
And you guys know the stats better than I do.
In many of our African American, Latino communities, 50, 60, 70,
80% of young people, their dad's not around.
And I think that's way too much of a burden to place on all of
our strong moms and grandmas.
It's way too much of a burden to place on our great
school teachers.
Everyone's trying.
Everyone is trying to do their part.
But we all have to be in this together.
I watched a film, a very, very tough film called
"The Interrupters", which some of you may have seen.
It's about the horrendous gang violence that we face back home
in Chicago.
It's the toughest issue I've dealt with.
But you have these, you know, hardcore guys on there talking
and just saying straight up, I know my life would be different
if my father would have been in my life.
It's amazing these guys that are so tough, so street smart,
been locked up and just flat out saying,
I would be a different person if my dad was there.
So we have just, again, amazing examples,
these champions here that you guys are helping to provide,
redoubled your efforts, challenge us to be a
good partner.
I'll just say personally, on our side of the Department of
Education, in some ways I think we've been helpful.
In other areas, I think we've been part of the problem,
quite frankly.
And one of the areas where I think we've been part of the
problem is we have underinvested in parental engagement.
Great teachers make a huge difference.
Great principals make a huge difference.
But they can't do it by themselves.
And so in these very tough economic times,
we're asking Congress to double, 100% increase our funding for
parental engagement, to go from about $135 million to about
$280 million.
(applause)
And what we want to do is to invest in programs that are
making a difference.
I don't want to create programs from Washington.
That doesn't make any sense.
But you show me what you're doing,
not the feel-good program, not looks good on a
PowerPoint presentation.
But you show me what your program is doing to raise
student achievement, to increase graduation rates,
to reduce drop-out rates.
And we want to take to scale what is working.
I've visited many of your programs.
I've traveled the country, been extraordinarily impressed.
My challenges is, how do we take to scale?
How do we take to scale what is working?
And so we want to use our resources, again,
not to create things here but to just help you guys
impact more kids.
And if we can do this systemically,
then I just have the highest of hopes,
highest of expectations for our young people.
But if we don't do that, and if we continue as fathers to walk
away from our responsibilities, it troubles me not just for
children and communities but for our country.
So the battles here are huge.
The stakes are very, very high.
But again, just thank you so much for your
collective commitment.
Thanks for the difference you have made.
Thanks for the difference you're going to make.
And please challenge me and my team to be a better partner than
ever before as you try and transform the lives
of young kids.
Thank you so much for having me.
Sorry for interrupting the panel.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: Well, let's give our first panel of Champions of Change a
terrific round of applause.
(applause)
Thank you so much, everyone.
I'll be lurking in the background keeping an
eye on all of you.
So stay as well behaved as you have been.
Joshua DuBois: Straut, if you can hang with me for a second.
Hello everybody, by the way.
How's it going?
I'm Joshua DuBois.
I head up the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood
Partnerships in the White House.
And as Mike said, this day is a culmination of a lot of work,
a lot of hard work by a lot of people.
And we wanted to just acknowledge some of the people
in the room.
And then I want to say a special word about a very special father
as well before we move to our next panel.
You know, at the end of the day, this day is about
celebrating you.
We do a bit of work in the President's fatherhood
initiative lead by Mike and myself but you all are doing
this work every single day, on the front lines doing research,
running programs, connecting with schools,
working with ex-offenders, working in federal agencies on
this effort.
And we can't thank you enough.
And I just want to shout out some of the folks in the room.
I don't think I'm going to hit everyone,
but when you hear your group called, just raise your hand.
We have folks from public housing authorities around
the country.
Thank you so much.
(applause)
We have barbers participating in Barbershop Buzz and other folks
connected to barbershops.
Thank you.
(applause)
We have some great coalitions.
Allan Shedlin from Reel Fathers and New Mexico Fathers & Family
Alliance came all the way from New Mexico to be here.
Allan, are you here?
Hey, buddy.
We have Gill Coleman in the room doing great work with the mayor
in Philadelphia.
Hey, Gill.
And David Hirsch from the Illinois father's coalition.
We have great authors here: Zorro and Jamiyl Samuels and
Rick Johnson and other folks who are impacting culture through
the books that they're writing.
Raise your hands for us.
(applause)
Wonderful non-profits: The Osborne Association in New York
and David Bell from the Young Men's Clinic,
Brothers of Concern from Chester, Pennsylvania,
The RIDGE project in Ohio, Alliance of Concerned Men in
D.C, my buddies from strive over here in New York.
Let's thank them for their good work.
(applause)
Businesses are stepping up to the plate.
We have Starwood and Wired magazine and Visa and other
folks in the private sector who are contributing.
Lamell McMorris.
Is Lamell in the audience?
Thank you.
Fraternities, we have Tabede Boone from Omega Psi Phi as well
as Joe Briggs in Omega Psi Phi in the NFL Players Association.
Allan Houston up in New York.
We have researchers here, Jermaine Brown from the Joint
Center studying this work every single day and friends on the
livestream doing tremendous research and practice down
in Florida.
Hello, friends.
Let's give them a round of applause.
(applause)
Dr. Robert Franklin, the President of Morehouse
College, is here.
I think he may have just stepped out for a second.
But he's coming back.
So we'll acknowledge him when he gets here.
Carlos Duran, doing great work in the Latino Community.
Dr. Jeff who lifted up fatherhood through Dad Camp
on VH1.
I'm almost done.
Dr. Jeff, are you here?
Hey there.
(applause)
Mervil Johnson just held a fatherhood heroes event in Texas,
doing great work in Texas.
Where are you at, Mervil?
There you go.
(applause)
Tray Chaney.
Where's Tray?
If you don't know Tray Chaney, go on YouTube, google Tray.
He was on The Wire and does wonderful songs
about fatherhood.
We always talk about the negative messages that are being
sent about dads.
Tray was on 106 & Park talking about how dads can step up
to the plate.
So thank you, Tray, for the good work you're doing.
(applause)
Haji Shearer from the Fatherhood and Co-Parenting Initiative
in Boston.
Jeff Johnson from the National Partnership for
Community Leadership.
Kirk Harris doing great work in Chicago.
The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation,
bringing women into the fatherhood movement.
Where are you, Melanie?
Hey there.
And William Killebrew doing tremendous work.
Bishop Donald Hilliard, Raymond Levy,
Pastor Eugene Norris from Ohio doing tremendous work.
Where are you, pastor?
There you go.
How's it going?
Gary Simpson.
I know I missed some folks.
I promise I'll shout you out in a minute.
But before we move to the next panel,
one of the most stellar examples of a father that we know --
I have to give him special acknowledgment now.
You know, folks know the President's imprint on
this issue.
They know his story, growing up without a father and then having
a significant impact through the President's
fatherhood initiative.
But the reason this runs day to day,
the reason why White House staff are inspired to step up to the
plate on this issue, on mentoring,
on so many issues of concern for our community --
and quite frankly, our pressure valve,
when things gets tough around here,
the person that we go to for mentoring and support is
Michael Strautmanis.
Let's give him a warm standing ovation for his great work on
The Fatherhood Initiative.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: That was a set up.
Joshua DuBois: That was a set up, Mike.
But thank you.
Michael Strautmanis: Thanks a lot, everybody.
Joshua DuBois: And now we're going to head to our next panel.
Another round of applause for Secretary Arne Duncan please.
Thank you.
(applause)
Okay we've heard from national fatherhood champions.
And now we're here to honor five local fatherhood champions who
are doing tremendous work at the local level on fatherhood.
And we're excited to have them here.
When I call your name, if you could please come to the stage.
We have Stacey Bouchet, the codirector for Women in
Fatherhood Incorporated or WiFi.
(applause)
Thank you.
We have Bob Johnson, a father who was recently featured in the
movie "Bully."
Bob, if you could join us on the stage.
We have Mike Hall, the founder and President of Strong
Fathers - Strong Families.
Mike, if you could join us.
(applause)
Dr. Michelle Foster, CEO of the Kanawha Institute for Social
Research & Action or KISRA.
(applause)
And my dear friend, Joe Jones, the founder of Center for Urban
Families in Baltimore, a model for fatherhood work around
the country.
(applause)
Friends, let's go ahead and get right into it.
We have to know not just what you're working on every day but
what inspired you to get into this field and to do the
tremendous work that you're doing.
Stacey, maybe we'll start with you.
We heard from Dr. Williams-Skinner about why
fatherhood is important to women.
Tell us how you are operationalizing this every
single day through WIFI.
We would love to hear from you.
Stacey Bouchet: Okay, great.
We're a national organization and we do place based work as
well, so in Baltimore and New Orleans right now.
But we hope to expand to additional communities and
eventually have chapters.
But we started this work because the Annie E.
Casey foundation actually recognized --
they were heavily invested in the fatherhood movement.
And they said, you know, it would be great if there was an
organized voice of women that thought fathers were
important too.
And so they brought about a dozen of us together from all
across the country, all different political beliefs and
areas of specialty.
But we were all somehow connected to the
fatherhood field.
And Joe was involved in organizing that.
And it stuck.
So it was tried by Dr. Ron Mincy when he was at Ford.
He tried to do the same thing.
And he brought women together, particularly women that were
advocates for other women who were in poverty because he saw
their agenda as the biggest barrier to moving the fatherhood
agenda forward.
And it didn't -- there wasn't success.
No one took a leadership role.
So when Casey brought us together,
we have maintained the course.
They've been wonderful supporters.
We have connected with many of the fatherhood organizations
in the field.
And what I feel like we bring to the table is the perspective of
low-income women.
So we are working with women in communities.
We do qualitative research.
And what they tell us is that they care about the men in their
communities, that they want fathers to be involved,
that they are overwhelmed, that they're worried about their
children, they're worried about what's going to happen in the
absence of fathers in their communities.
And these are women that are -- we've interviewed in domestic
violence shelters who have said, I don't want him near me but I
still want him to see our children.
So this is something that's very important to women.
And we know that.
It has become a platform for our work.
But it's not something that is widely recognized.
And I don't think it's something that a lot of men realize,
particularly men who face other types of disadvantage or
structural issues like racism, poverty,
and things like to that.
A lot of times, they don't feel like women support them.
But they do.
The devil is in the details of course because interpersonal
relationships come into play.
We at women at fatherhood, we are trying to say --
you know, it's funny because it irritates me a little bit to
hear people say, come on dad, step up, step up.
My father was not around when I was growing up,
so I do understand that.
But what women, what women in low-income communities,
racially and ethnically diverse communities tell us over and
over and over again is the dads are there.
They are there every day.
I live down the street from Morgan State University.
I cannot drive one block outside of my house that I don't see men
walking with their children.
They're at the CVS.
They're at the gas station.
They're everywhere with their kids.
So I don't understand why this isn't recognized.
And women tell us over and over again, he pays when we can,
we have an informal agreement worked out.
And then what happens is research shows that as children
get older, the parents enter the formal child support system.
And the assumption is dad's not paying, he doesn't care,
he's shirked his responsibilities.
And that's not the case.
What happens is the moms don't have enough money,
even with the dad's help, even with the dad's parent's helping.
It's not enough.
So when she has to go and enter, become engaged with a formal
system, a government system that says, hey,
if you want us to help you, give up the dad,
and then the dad says, why did you take me downtown,
I thought we had an agreement worked out.
It's not that dads -- you would be hard pressed to find a parent
that said, I don't care about my kid, I'm not interested.
So I think it's time we let that go, because it is not the case.
What happens is things interfere.
Structural issues interfere.
Personal and relational issues, for sure, interfere.
Women interfere sometimes.
So let's address that.
Let's stop saying, step up!
Because you know what, they're there.
They're trying to step up.
I'm sorry.
Joshua DuBois: Well, thank you so much, Stacey.
It's a critical topic.
And I appreciate you lifting it up.
We're so honored to have Vicki Turetsky here.
We're going to hear from her toward the end of the program on
some adjustments to the child support program around
the country.
They may be a little technical and wonky,
but they're going to have a significant impact on this issue
of making sure that families can remain intact and that child
support does not become a barrier to father involvement.
So thank you so much for raising that.
Let's give Stacey a round of applause.
We're going to continue with our panel.
But just continuing in the theme of tremendous special guests,
we have another individual here who's doing great work on
this area.
We know that he is our nation's chief law enforcement officer,
enforcing all of our laws.
But what is not as often reported is the great work that
the United States Department of Justice is doing on issues
related to fatherhood, on persons returning to our
communities after incarceration on juvenile violence and
delinquency and on mentoring as well.
This is because of the tremendous work of the Attorney
General of the United States, Eric Holder who is here with
us today.
Attorney General Holder?
Attorney General Eric Holder: So I'm a surprise?
Is that the deal?
No really, am I?
Joshua DuBois: Yes, you are.
Attorney General Eric Holder: All right.
You guys thought Denzel Washington was coming or
something, right?
And you got stuck with Erik.
Oh well, oh well.
I understand Arne Duncan was here just a while ago.
Did he have a jacket on?
Audience Member: No.
Attorney General Eric Holder: The guy is incorrigible, you know.
He's the Secretary of Education.
He's a good friend of the President of the United States.
He's a cabinet member.
He's a representative of this administration.
And we can't get him to wear a jacket.
Were his sleeves rolled up?
Audience Member: Yes.
Attorney General Eric Holder: Josh?
Come on, Josh.
Let's make this happen here, you know.
Or maybe I'll just take -- you know.
No.
I want to thank you, Josh, for having me here.
It's a pleasure to be among such good folks.
It's a pleasure to join with a group of advocates, leaders,
and partners from across the administration,
also from the non-profit and private sectors.
Today, together, we have an important opportunity,
not only to recognize and to celebrate the work of our local
and national fatherhood Champions Of Change but also to
advance a critical nationwide dialogue about the importance of
fatherhood and the impact that strong role male models can have
on our children, our communities,
and really on our entire country.
Now, I particularly would like to thank Josh and his colleagues
in the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood
Partnerships for all that they're doing and for bringing
us together here today.
And I also want to express my gratitude to each of the
champions who have demonstrated such an extraordinary capacity
for leadership, innovation, and also for public service.
Now in big cities and small towns across this country,
you have worked to promote responsible fatherhood in
prisons, in schools, the military, tribal areas,
and also in communities of faith.
You've helped to connect kids with fathers who are serving
time in prison with mentors and also with positive role models.
And you've enhanced not only our understanding of the unique and
urgent challenges facing young people whose fathers are not
involved in their lives but also our ability to address these
challenges and to fight back against some of the troubling
trends that, unfortunately, we see developing in our nation.
Now, especially today, as we prepare to celebrate Father's
Day -- and you all have gotten my Father's Day wishes, right?
So everybody, send those presents.
(laughter)
Why is there laughter about that?
I'm serious.
And we work to highlight the difference that really
responsible engaged parents can make.
I'm really glad to be in the company of so many fellow dads
and dedicated parents and partners.
I also want to commend my boss, the President,
for his efforts in launching such an important
national conversation.
I am very glad to be a part of this conversation.
And I believe that today's event presents really a vital
opportunity to consider and discuss what our communities,
as well as the federal government,
can do to strengthen families and to provide assistance to
young people and also to support fathers who are really trying
just to do the right thing.
Now, of all the titles I've held in my life --
I've been a lawyer, a prosecutor, judge,
U.S. Attorney, Deputy Attorney General, Attorney General --
the one title that I'm most proud of is father, dad.
I have two teenage daughters and a 14 year old son.
Helping to raise them has been, in some ways,
the biggest challenge of my life but also the most rewarding
experience that I have ever had.
It is certainly the most important job I've ever had.
And I think even compared to what I do in front of
congressional committees is probably the most demanding
thing that I do.
Although, I would much rather hang out with them then with the
House Republicans.
(laughter)
(applause)
They're all concerned because this is being livestreamed.
I mean, do you think I want to hang out with the
House Republicans?
(laughter)
I understand that in these, you know,
especially difficult economic times,
families and specifically fathers,
really face significant challenges.
We often need and always deserve the strongest support that we
can give to fathers, from military dads who are coming
home after deployment to unemployed fathers who are
struggling to make ends meet.
It can be hard for even the most dedicated dads to fulfill their
core responsibilities.
Now, the unfortunate reality is that father absence is a growing
problem in this country, one that can have a negative impact
on the lives and the futures of millions of young people.
And that, in so many ways, it has reached crisis proportions.
When you look at some of these numbers, the U.S. Census Bureau
has indicated that 24 million American children, 24 million --
that's about 1 out of every 3 -- currently lives in homes without
their biological fathers.
Now, studies have consistently shown that,
when dads are not around and involved,
kids are more likely to drop out of school, to use drugs,
and to become involved with the criminal justice system.
They also face an elevated risk of incarceration in
their own lives.
And many are much more likely to be exposed to violence,
either as victims or as witnesses.
Now, on the other hand, research has also demonstrated that men
who maintain strong family ties while incarcerated are often
more successful and less likely to commit crimes after they
are released.
So there's no question that family connections improve
public safety.
This is a Justice issue in addition to everything else.
Responsible and engaged parenting improves public safety
as we all have the responsibility as well as the
ability to make a positive difference for the young people
in our own lives.
Now, of course each of you is here today because you all
understand the magnitude of the needs and the obstacles
that we face.
You've heard the tragic stories.
You have seen the alarming statistics.
And in the course of your work, you have witnessed the
devastating consequences of father absence firsthand.
All of you have dedicated yourselves to remedying and
calling attention to the impact of this problem.
And today, thanks to President Obama's leadership,
I'm proud to say that this administration stands shoulder
to shoulder with each of you in identifying the solutions that
we need and that our children deserve.
At the highest levels of government and in communities
across the country, we are devoting more attention
to family.
We're focusing on strategies for supporting fathers and helping
them to be responsible loving parents.
And we're also working to reach and to empower the children who
need our help the most.
Now, through innovative new programs like the President's
Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative,
we've issued a national call to action.
And we're forging and strengthening key partnerships
with groups and organizations all across the country that are
focused on promoting fatherhood and strong families.
Thanks to the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.
That's an initiative that was lead by the Department of
Justice and the Department Of Education.
And that has brought together scores of federal, state,
and local allies in six cities.
We're implementing comprehensive tailored approaches to combating
youth violence.
And we are planning to expand this program to include four
additional cities and bringing that total up to ten.
Through the Justice Department's landmark Defending Childhood
Initiative as well as the research that's being supported
by mentoring programs and Second Chance Act grants in efforts of
the Federal Interagency Reentry Council which I'm proud to
chair, my colleagues and I are working every day to better
understand the causes and the consequence of father absence
and to more effectively address this really
devastating phenomenon.
Now, of course, as the people in this room know probably better
than anyone else, problems like re-entry, youth violence,
and a host of other problems associated with father absence
really have no simple solutions.
There are really no silver bullets here.
Their affects are felt nearly everywhere.
And it won't ever be possible for government,
government alone, to tackle these challenges or to improve
relationships between fathers and children.
This is not something that the government can do on its own.
There can be no doubt that everyone here has an
indispensable role to play.
Community leaders, private sector partners,
non-profit and faith based organizations and passionate
individuals all have important contributions to make to deal
with this issue.
But at the end of the day, whether we're developing local
initiatives or working to implement global policy
solutions, the effectiveness of our efforts will ultimately be
measured in the direct impact of individuals who need our
help the most.
As fathers, we have an opportunity today,
as we do every day, to act responsibly in the lives of our
own children.
We have an obligation to spend time with our sons and with our
daughters, to help them with their home work,
to show them how to play well together,
to teach our sons how to respect women and to teach our daughters
to demand respect for themselves.
These are basic things.
But they are important things.
We can serve as role models for how to interact with others and
how to handle the challenges of life,
however daunting those challenges might be.
And by setting a good example, each of us can have a
significant impact on the future of our nation in profound and
very positive ways.
So today, as we explore ways to advance this work,
I'm grateful for the commitment and for the passion demonstrated
by each of the champions that we're gathered here today
to celebrate.
I am privileged to count you all as colleagues and as partners in
taking our collective efforts to the next level.
And I look forward to where each of you can and must lead
us from here.
I can think of really no more important issue than the issue
that we have gathered here today to discuss.
I have a lot of responsibilities as attorney general,
everything from national security and dealing with
terrorists groups.
But what we're talking about here is really the future of our
nation, what kind of an America do we want to have.
So I want to solute you for the commitment that you have
demonstrated, for the work that you undoubtedly will do in
the future.
And please understand that you have, in this administration,
a great many friends and people who are committed to the very
same things that you are.
So thank you all very, very much.
(applause)
And I also want to thank Michael Strautmanis and the Office of
Public Engagement for helping us put this together today.
There he goes.
Thank you.
Joshua DuBois: All right.
What a wonderful treat.
Let's give another round of applause for our Attorney
General of the United States.
(applause)
Okay.
Well, let's continue with our panel.
We're excited to hear from some very special guests,
champions that are up here doing great work on fatherhood at the
local level.
We're going to ask -- because we have a number of things that fit
in in the next 40 minutes, we're going to ask that your comments
be three minutes each.
And we'll keep moving down the panel.
Next we're excited to have Bob Johnson.
Bob is a wonderful father himself.
And by the way, that reminds me to acknowledge some other groups
in the room.
We have the Family Equality Council, PFLAG,
and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Are you all here in the room?
Thank you.
Hi there.
And that's connected to a bit of a story that Bob had the
pleasure of sharing in the movie "Bully."
Bob, I hope you'll tell us a little bit about the movie and
about your story as well.
Bob Johnson: Yes.
I don't know if I can adequately convey how humbling of an
experience this is sitting in this room today.
I feel like I'm sitting among giants in this field.
And I would also like to recognize my wife of almost 22
years who is the true champion of our family.
Thank you, Yolanda.
(applause)
As the proud and loving parents of a transgender child,
we had to pull that child out of school sophomore year because of
some issues that we had.
We could no longer feel like we could protect her and
her safety.
And we had to pull her out of school.
And as parents, we began to sit back and think,
this can't be it, this cannot be the end of our child's story.
We've worked so long and hard to get her to where we are today.
So we began to sit back and think, what can we do,
where can we go from here?
We do not want our child to be defined as a victim.
We do not want this experience to define her.
And I think that's probably a common theme among every parent
in the room today.
So Yolanda reached out to the Ellen show.
They did a story on bullying and put us in touch with Lee Hirsch,
the director of "Bully."
And Lee flew out.
And the rest is history in regards to how our participation
came to be in the film.
And that partnership with Lee in the film Bully --
we've spent the past year traveling the country speaking
at various venues and on different panels about
the issue.
That relationship with Lee in the movie "Bully" lead us in
turn to a relationship with GLSEN.
And that relationship has very much flourished and allowed us
to travel the country, speak on a number of topics,
one of which is lobbying of Congress on behalf of the SSIA
and SNDA legislation that is currently pending out there.
I would also like to take the opportunity --
because you don't get these types of opportunities much,
to thank the Obama administration for the
incredible leadership and bravery shown in his endorsement
of both of those pieces of critical legislation for
our children.
(applause)
The other thing that I began to see as I traveled and spoke on
behalf of GLSEN and lobbied on behalf of debt legislation was
that within the LGBT community specifically,
which is obviously near and dear to my heart because of my child,
there is a gaping hole in the heart of that community from
lack of fatherly leadership and love.
And so as a part of my mission now --
not just to help persuade and get this legislation passed but
it has now become a part of my mission to get fathers of these
children to understand that you fulfill an incredibly
critical role.
I mean, everybody has said it up here.
A father fulfills such an incredibly unique and specific
role within a child's life.
But there is a gaping chasm in the heart of that LGBT community
from fathers who choose to not be part of that child's life,
walk away from that situation.
And that cannot be.
And that's become my passion.
That's become my voice, to get fathers to understand.
I'm not trying to persuade you.
I'm not asking you.
I'm telling you that is your responsibility as a father and
as a man to let that child know that you are proud of that
child, that you love that child, and that you will be there for
them no matter what the circumstances are in
that child's life.
(applause)
Joshua DuBois: Thank you so much for sharing your story, sir.
Appreciate you.
Next we have Mike Hall.
Mike has been on an amazing journey from school principal to
working with dads and kids after school.
Mike, we'd love to know more about you and your
organization, as well.
Mike Hall: Yeah, I am a recovering middle school principal.
(laughter)
What we do at Strong Fathers - Strong Families is,
I've been working in fatherhood since I was a middle school
principal and we were trying to get more parents involved,
like Secretary Duncan spoke about,
trying to get more folks involved and, of course,
more fathers involved.
Did our first dad's day in 1999, and was sitting there telling
dads in the middle school what happens when they're not
involved, all the stats, realizing I had --
Bob, thanks, now I'm crying.
I had two kids at home that I was spending more time raising
other people's kids than I was my own.
And so I resigned that job, I went back to teaching.
Some people said that was heroic,
but I stopped being a middle school principal,
which is akin to stop hitting yourself in the head with
a hammer.
(laughter)
So --
Joshua DuBois: Glad Arne's not here anymore.
Mike Hall: No.
If I didn't have the world's greatest job for me,
I would definitely be back.
My beautiful wife is here, she's a middle school teacher,
and she works with those kids every day, that have fathers,
that don't have fathers.
And she understands the work that we're doing.
We've worked with over 110,000 dads face to face in public
schools and Head Starts in over 30 states.
And it's exactly like Stacey said.
They're coming out in droves.
For, you know, a short, fat, white kid in a pasture in Texas
to be bringing in dads, it's got to be simple.
And we have anywhere from 180 to 400 dads a day coming in to
visit their child's classroom to observe their child in what I
call their natural habitat and seeing what great things are
going on, number one, in American public schools.
And number two, to see the abilities their kids have and
now that future is different for them.
And so we speak to these dads after they visit class about
what did you see and why did you see it and here's why we're
teaching kids differently, but also the role of fathers
in education.
'97 report from the Department of Education said the number one
predictor of student achievement is father involvement.
And it lends itself -- I'm going to agree with you twice today,
Stacey, so mark that down.
We see dads all the time.
I work in inner city Fort Worth, inner city Dallas.
We work in inner city Los Angeles with
Head Start programs.
And we never have a program where the dads don't show up.
It doesn't matter what color it is,
doesn't matter what language we're using.
You got a red headed guy speaking Spanish and English,
kind of freaks people out.
But when we invite the dads, they show up.
At the bottom of our website, StrongFathers.com --
I just learned that from Carey Casey how to do that --
but StrongFathers.com --
(laughter)
At the bottom -- I learn every day, brother.
There's a young man with his daughter,
his kindergarten daughter.
And his kindergarten daughter went home and took the flyer
that says "bring your dad to school day" to her single mom.
And her mom said, I'll go.
And the daughter, after I met her understood how she said it,
she says, you're not my daddy.
And said, well, fine, call your daddy, your dad's in Chicago.
This is in Irving, Texas.
He had never been to Texas.
He had met them halfway, or she had been flown up to see him.
Their kindergarten daughter gets on the phone and says,
I have a dad's day at my school, will you come?
And he comes.
Joshua DuBois: Wow.
Mike Hall: And day after day, we see dads coming in to schools from 200,
300 miles away.
We have a program in Montana called Strong Fathers -
Strong Tribes.
We had a dad that drove 13 hours from South Dakota to Montana to
be at a Head Start "bring your dad to school day,"
and we told the dads, in a month we're going to have a dad and
kid math night.
He said, I'll be back.
That's 26 more hours, you know, to play cards with your kids for
two hours because we know he knows it's important.
And so we come from a strength-based perspective of we
expect the dads to be there, they never fail us.
The kids invite them.
So if you really want to know the secret,
when your kid colors a flyer and knows that they can invite,
they're going to show up.
But, you know, we're working on that strength because all the
stats we've talked about today, one that we really need to keep
talking about as a group, as a group of professionals,
is 100% of the kids in this country have a father, you know.
I mean, if I need to explain that, we will.
But it's --
(laughter)
And we all understand, as many of you do this work,
that not every dad is there.
But every day we go into a school or Head Start,
I mean without fail, people that didn't believe anybody would
come will come and tell us you brought in guys we didn't
know existed.
Because the kids know where they are.
And even if that child doesn't bring in their father,
they bring in somebody that they want to play that role.
And to echo what was said by John and what was said by
Rollin, was almost every day that these dads come in and we
say, what did you see and what --
and they say, what about these other kids.
And they say, I wish we had more dads here.
And we tell them, your kid's in kindergarten, first grade,
second grade.
You're going to be here again next year.
So is that child that sits next to your child.
So is that child that's in your Cub Scout group.
So is that child that needs to be on your baseball team.
And we have those fathers on a day-to-day basis.
And so we're working like 10 to 12,000 dads a year in the
schools locally there in Dallas/Fort Worth
around the state.
But we're in Head Starts all over the country,
public schools, showing them how simple this is.
And we have a curriculum.
But it's easy, because if you reach out and you allow the kids
to reach out to their dads, we're seeing that.
And it's a great opportunity for those dads to become the
built-in mentors.
You know, we love it when pastors come in.
We love it when church members come in.
We love it when the Rotary and A5A and everybody comes in to
mentor kids.
I'm a drum-dragging, tuba-toting,
horn-hauling band dad.
And my kids were drummers, so I didn't have to go through the
clarinet stage like Secretary Duncan.
You know, our kids almost ask us to not be band boosters because
it was so much stress in our life.
Because it really wasn't about our kids.
We were glad to be there, they were glad to get cash from us.
But the kids that I see in the community now that are 15, 20,
you know, that had us hand them a sandwich,
had my wife and I both and other family --
other community members say, how are you doing?
Why are you hanging out with him, you know,
or is that your boyfriend?
I can kill him for you if you would like,
you know what I mean.
(laughter)
I'm a father too, you know, other folks.
But that's what we're seeing is this is imperative,
but it's also simple, you know.
And like I said, we're living proof that this can be done and
we're trying to go around training folks to bring those
dads in on a regular basis.
And the good part is anybody that's followed the recipe,
it is working great for them.
Joshua DuBois: Wonderful.
Thank you so much, Mike.
(applause)
Next we have Dr. Michelle Foster.
Dr. Foster's organization went from a medium sized church
ministry to a federal grantee in just a few short years.
Dr. Foster, we'd love to know a little bit more about your work.
Michelle Foster: Yes.
Let me first thank you, Joshua, for recognizing me and our --
and the KISRA team with this honor,
and to our federal project officer, Charles Sutton, who's,
you know, who has been a great supporter.
He's with the OFA program.
And our fatherhood program is funded by OFA.
Our work with fathers started because of our concern
for children.
We were a small church in West Virginia,
mainly African American church.
And our pastor, who is here today, Pastor Hallager,
you can wave.
(applause)
He wanted us to be more than just a church,
more than just having service on Sundays and Wednesday nights.
He had a passion for really making a difference in
our community.
So we started off with just an after school program and really
with volunteers from our church, working with the kids,
when they themselves got off work.
And then it grew to the point, during that time we also did --
we were blessed with funding from the Safety and Drug Free
Communities Program, to do a planning study of our community,
see where there were risks and where there were resources.
And what we discovered was that 65% of the children in our
communities were headed by single moms.
So there was an absence of dads in our community.
We also have our personal examples in our church with moms
who were raising children alone.
So we evolved from just an after-school program with just
me as a staff person, to now a team of 70 plus people who are
passionately working towards making lives better
for children.
We're at the point now where the fatherhood program is at the
core of what we do and we provide comprehensive services
to fathers.
We're just not a fatherhood program.
We've got after school programming.
We've got a child development center.
We have economic empowerment programs.
So a father may come to us and receive responsible parenting
coaching, he may receive money management as well as economic
stability, programs like transitional jobs or vocational
training, which research has shown can lead to really
steady employment.
He may come for that, but he may leave with a match savings
account, with a home, with a business loan,
because of the comprehensive approach that we have towards
giving children better dads and strengthening families
as a whole.
So we're really excited about this work.
We're a church that -- Dr. Barbara says she wishes that
there were churches stepping up.
We have stepped up big time.
I mean, our first year -- amen.
(applause)
Our first year of really operating programs in 1998,
the church paid my salary for the first two,
three or so years.
Pastor Hallager was himself working with another group.
And he -- they gave him a stipend of $2,000 a month.
He gave that back into KISRA.
So we -- our church has invested in our community and we're
really serious about it.
Joshua DuBois: Thank you so much, Dr. Foster.
(applause)
Some great churches in this room that aren't just sitting on the
corner, but they're changing the corner around them.
And this is a wonderful example of them.
Last, but certainly not least, we have my dear friend,
Joe Jones.
Joe runs a Center for Urban Families in Baltimore.
And if you don't know about CFUF,
I would encourage you to learn more about them.
Just tremendous comprehensive programming for low income
families in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Baltimore.
Joe, we'd love to hear from you, both in your role at CFUF,
but also with the National Fatherhood Leaders
Group, as well.
Joe Jones: Thanks, Josh.
Hello, everybody.
Audience: Hello.
Joe Jones: And particularly hello to those who are looking in live,
or hopefully the folks at the International Fatherhood
Conference down in Florida.
Big shout out, I want to, you know,
acknowledge a person who accompanied me here today,
my board chair, Mr. David Warnock.
Dave, thank you for being here.
(applause)
I know we've got Stacey here, but I've got to acknowledge my
colleague from Baltimore, Julia Hayman-Hamilton also.
Stacey Boucher: I wanted to do that.
Sorry.
Joe Jones: Yeah, yeah, okay.
I beat you to the punch.
(laughter)
But I also got some soldiers here --
another soldier here from Baltimore, David Miller,
with the Urban Leadership Institute.
You know --
(laughter)
-- got to give a shout out to home.
And then for my other colleagues with the National Fatherhood
Leaders Group, Kirk Harris, who is here, and Kenny Braswell.
Thank you so much for, you know, all that we do.
I want to start off, though, by making a point that goes back to
some of the data that Attorney General Eric Holder shared with
us in terms of the number of children with father absent in
the households and the impact of that on our communities.
There is another group of people who I would surmise are meeting
while we are meeting.
And those are people who take that data and they began to
strategize on how to create and lobby to build more prisons in
our communities relative to the number of children they
anticipate to be in those systems, right.
(applause)
If we don't understand that, simply doing practice, right,
is not going to get us there.
So we've got to figure out collectively how do we take the
advantage that we have right now.
And if we work really, really hard,
we'll have this advantage for another five years, hint,
hint, reelection.
And I say that because we have a champion in the White House
right now who has taken this issue of father presence --
(applause)
-- and uplifted it to a new level.
It's great when you have Cabinet secretaries.
We need that.
It's great when you may have the Vice President talking about it.
It's a different game when the big guy is talking about this.
And somebody who talked about it before they got to
the White House.
So in terms of street cred, I was looking to whether or not
when he got here, would he keep it up.
And I would submit to you, the fact that we're here talking
about this issue today is a validation that he kept his
word, all right.
(applause)
At the Center for Urban Families,
our tag line is "helping fathers and families work."
And we really attempt do this in a number of ways.
And I want to share with you a couple of examples of how we
approach the work.
But I want to share with you also how I got to this work and
why it's meaningful to me.
Many of you who know me know that, you know,
my personal journey was on the other side of the fence
for a while.
I was a real knucklehead involved in the insanity of drug
use and I had a son out of wedlock that I wasn't
responsible for.
And it really bothered me the whole time --
I started using drugs when I was 13 --
for 17 years.
And when I had my son, I wasn't in a position to be a
responsible dad.
And I think that one of the most profound things that happened to
me was God giving me an opportunity to turn it around
and to heal my relationship with my son.
Today where we are in a man-to-man relationship,
I'm his dad, he's my son.
He calls me too much about those God durn Baltimore Orioles,
who he loves to death, right, and thank God this year they're
winning for the first time in almost 20 years, you know.
And so we really look forward to that.
But then I met a young lady when I was in drug treatment who,
you know, she wasn't associated with the drug game.
She had nothing to do with the subculture.
As a matter of fact, as a black woman,
she doesn't even know how to curse right.
On those rare instances when she slips up, I'm like,
what did you say, you know?
It just doesn't make sense how she, you know, she gets upset.
But we -- she has a little girl that's my stepdaughter.
And then together she and I have a son who's 20 years old.
He's a junior at the school -- in the School of Engineering at
Morgan State University.
And how this kid, coming from me,
is in engineering is beyond me, but he is.
(laughter)
But this, you know, talking about this complementary
relationship between moms and dads,
when he was a little guy around two or three years old and,
you know, he's preparing to use the potty, you know,
I felt like my responsibility was to help him learn how to use
the potty.
But, you know, when you're in training to use the potty,
you make a lot of mistakes, you know.
And if you're a dad and you've been potty training your son,
you know what I mean.
And for moms, you usually pick up the back end and do the
cleanup, because we don't do a great job of cleaning up.
And I remember I was helping my son, you know, to figure out,
he's modeling watching me, and he starts to use the potty,
but then I had this extended trip.
And when I came back from the trip and I said, come on, man,
we're going to go back to the potty,
he goes into the potty and he sits down, right.
So I'm like all that effort I put in, when I went away,
my wife reverted back to the safest thing,
because that was the way she could prevent him from making
the mess, right.
Well, we had to have some discussion, and we worked
on it, right?
And I created this one step stool that allowed my son to
step up one step and be able to have a better angle to
make the mark.
And when my wife saw him make the mark, right,
she was very encouraged that we were working on it
the right way.
And my son looked at me, he couldn't say much about it,
but he had the sense of accomplishment that was
associated with he and I working on pottying.
That's the value of our work, you know.
(laughter)
So I like to tell that story, because this is
important, right.
(applause)
Start with the basics, you know.
And at the Center for Urban Families, again,
our tag line is "helping fathers and families" where we've got a
great team of folks who are there who work across programs
from responsible fatherhood to work force development,
working with couples and working with our graduates who,
after they graduate from a particular program,
they're in the space not unlike when you graduate from college
and you want to give them a network,
a set of resources to help them take their game to
another level.
I think we do an excellent job of helping people who are the
most challenged folks in Baltimore City, right,
to get to the game of getting into the labor force, right.
But for the guys that we're talking about who owe
astronomical amounts of child support,
who have been involved in the criminal justice system,
who haven't had great experiences in the educational
system, getting an entry level job,
the euphoria associated with that is only going to last two
to three to four months.
Now, what do we need to do to move forward.
And when I was hearing Ms. Foster talk about those
collaborations, we're now into what we call our second decade.
We have this construct that we call family stability and
economic success.
It's a blend of helping people to manage their personal
behavior, to think about the tools that are necessary to not
fall prey to predatory lending practices,
but to acquire the additional skills,
whether through education, customized training,
or making themselves a very good employee in an incumbent
position and moving up the wage scale.
But we can't -- we could never raise enough resources to do
this in isolation, not partnering with other folks.
So we've created these partnerships with --
in Baltimore with the Maryland Department of Human Resources,
our child support office.
Not only are we partnering with them,
but I sit on their policy panel helping them to look at reform
efforts to help us to think through how do we create
opportunities for guys who owe arrearages where realistically
they're never, ever going to be able to pay them off.
It's just not going to happen in their lifetime given the amount
that they owe of state-owed debt.
But some of the creative things that we can do,
and I think that Vicki Turetsky may talk about later.
But we also have a housing partner to help us think through
how do we get people into quality housing,
and particularly rental housing, that then leads to
home ownership.
We have a housing partner that we're working with with six of
our families who have moved from being unemployed, to employed,
who are now being set up to own homes that we're working with
our lenders on tax credits to create price points at $100,000
so they can get starter homes to be able to move from rental to
home ownership.
This is hard, hard work that we can't do in isolation of having
key critical partners to work on these efforts.
I mean, the last thing that I'll say is, you know,
really this notion of what it means to be a good
dad, you know.
You don't have to be perfect.
I screwed up my first chance at being a dad, you know.
And so the notion -- and you heard Mike Strautmanis give his personal testimony
about what's happening with his autistic son.
These are the real stories.
These are real lives.
This is not make believe.
But unless we can create spaces where these guys can let go of
the baggage that they carry around,
because sometimes they feel so inferior, right.
We've got to let them know it's okay where you were yesterday.
It's not about what you did, right,
it's about what you're going to do, and create the systems,
the strategies and the pathways to allow them to move forward.
And the last thing I'll say, particularly for those in the
practitioner community, this President at some point will not
be in office.
And so the future is not clear in terms of the next
administration, right, what we'll hold with respect to
responsible fatherhood.
So right now, we've got to make sure that the work that we do
that's a part of the social sciences, right,
is considered valid, right.
So as much as we talk about evidence-based practice,
and you know, sometimes in the hood you can't go around talking
about, brother, we going to do some evidence-based
practice, right?
But we do know that we've got to make sure that the program
evaluations associated with our work are considered valued,
and are the kind of things that justify the investment that the
federal government and the private sector will make,
and the kind of efforts that we take to get our children out of
poverty and keep guys involved in the lives of their children.
Thank you.
Speaker: Wonderful.
Thank you so much, Joe.
(applause)
Let's give a warm round of applause for all of
our Champions.
Thank you all so much.
(applause)
Now we've got just a few more minutes,
and this is a high wire act, but we're doing something we don't
normally do in the White House.
We normally do panels and we're doing to do a series of rapid
fire succession of very, very brief,
two- to three-minute presentations on some exciting
movements that are happening in the fatherhood field even now.
And we have to make it tight, but I think it will be valuable
and we're going to do a two-minute presentation,
then followed by one or two questions if folks in the
audience have them.
First, I want to welcome Kenny Braswell,
and he's going to come up here and talk about the exciting
movement that's happening with fatherhood and barbershops.
Right before we came over here, President Obama had a wonderful
lunch with a couple sets of folks.
One, he was having lunch with some military dads.
We have Captain Paulino here.
We heard from Lieutenant Bill, who got the Military Father of
the Year award.
But he also had lunch with a couple wonderful barbers,
as well, who also are military vets themselves.
We have Mr. Mason here.
Mr. Mason runs Mason's Barbershop for the last 51 years
in Northeast D.C., still cutting hair.
(applause)
Mr. Mason.
Big O has been cutting with him for 45 of those years.
Hey, Big O.
(applause)
And the President sat down and broke bread and had some
barbecue with them, talking -- kicking off something called
Fatherhood Buzz, which you're going to hear a minute and a
half from Kenny about right now.
(applause)
Kenny Braswell: He said three, and then he went to a minute and a half.
(laughter)
I heard that.
I caught that, Josh.
I want to thank Joshua and Michael for allowing me to talk
this afternoon.
And so I'm going to say, I'm going to take 15 seconds
to do this.
I just want to invoke the name of the New York Giants,
for those of you who have mentioned all of those names
this afternoon as the real champions --
(applause)
Okay.
I just wanted to say that, for my friend, New York.
And also wanted to thank my lovely wife,
who's here with me and my children, as well.
(applause)
My son, who helped me understand this experience last night by
saying to me and my wife, were you guys at the
Obama's house yet?
And so he's clear about where we are.
To Lisa Washington, Thomas, thank you.
Patrick, my right hand man, and our National Responsible
Fatherhood Clearing House team, David, Ed,
and others who are in the room.
Thank you so much for your leadership in this work.
So there's a wonderful buzz that's taking place around
the country.
It is going to culminate on Saturday, June 16th,
in 100 barbershops across the country and that buzz is called
Fatherhood Buzz.
And so what the project is to really find a way to both
broaden and deepen this work into our grass roots communities
and our people and our businesses on the ground.
It is an effort to build the capacity of our barbers,
our most trusted institutions in our communities,
those who have been working, as you know, sir,
been working with men and talking to boys and seeing boys
grow up right in your barber chair for years and
years and years.
You are probably the closest to the ills that are taking place
in our community.
And we wanted to be able to take this chance to begin to build
the capacity of these barbers to be productive information
dissemination points for the communities that they serve in.
By taking all of the folks who work within the federal
government, the resources that are in their community and begin
to create relationships with them so that when these barbers
are talking to the men and the fathers who are in their chairs,
that they can release to them information that's going to be
useful for them in being the best fathers they can be.
Thank you.
Joshua DuBois: Wonderful.
Thank you so much.
(applause)
We have time for one follow-up to Kenny.
Pastor Norris, Akron, Ohio, is doing tremendous work
on fatherhood.
I want to know, how can you connect the great work that
you're doing in Ohio to the barbershops that we're working
with around the country?
I'm sorry to call you -- tell us a little bit about
your work there.
Pastor Norris: Good afternoon.
As Joshua mentioned, my name is Pastor Norris.
I live in Akron, Ohio.
I'll make this quick.
Former home of Lebron James and real home of (inaudible).
(laughter)
(inaudible)
We've been able to do something in our community that's been
rather interesting, since we found out the significance that
we have to have in collaborating.
We don't have a project like that,
which we'll work on when we get back.
But one thing we were able to do that we thought was rather
significant was in terms of getting (inaudible) jobs.
When we did our surveys, jobs, connection with their children,
and being able to take care of child support issues were some
of the major issues that they had.
One thing that we were able to do was working in conjunction
with our utility companies in our area, they have the dollars,
and we were able to bring those together to help our dads give
what we call "green dads making green."
And so we were able to work in our communities with our utility
companies to help them with some of those arrearages.
Another thing that we've been very proud of that we've been
connected with is with our children's services in our area.
We're one of the only ones in the state of Ohio that actually
has a fatherhood office in children's services,
where now the dads are becoming a part of that case plan,
where the dads are actually now becoming the custodial fathers.
We just looked at the numbers just before I got here,
they stuck them in my hands, over 495 cases that took place
now within those case plans, only 62 of them do not have the
fathers involved.
Joshua DuBois: That's wonderful.
(applause)
Yes.
Just a wonderful example of a faith community coming together
around this issue.
Let's thank Pastor Norris again.
(applause)
Next, in rapid succession, you know,
we talk a lot about nonprofit organizations and indeed about
the private sector, and we're going to hear from the private
sector at the end.
But there are tremendous -- and I think there's no other way to
describe them -- but social innovators within federal
agencies working on this work every single day.
I see Amy Solomon and Marlene Beckman back there working on
reentry related issues.
Our dear friends from HHS, Lisa and others,
who are working on Fatherhood Buzz.
But we want to call up a few folks who are really leading
this charge within federal agencies,
including Diana Zarzuela from the Domestic Policy Council in
the White House, who has helped to put together a comprehensive
interagency working group on fatherhood and a report on all
the work the administration is doing.
We also have Ron Ashford from the Department of Housing and
Urban Development.
Hey, Ron, come on up.
(applause)
Who has brought fatherhood to hundreds of public housing
authorities around the country for the first time,
really innovative work.
And then finally, Vicki Turetsky.
Vicki has done just really life changing work bringing
fatherhood for the first time to the child support system.
(applause)
So they're going to give two minutes on their work and then
we're going to close out with one final presentation.
Come on.
Diana Zarzuela: Great.
So again, my name is Diana Zarzuela,
and I'm with the Domestic Policy Council.
I have the privilege and honor of working with Joshua and
Michael and the teams behind them on this important issue of
responsible fatherhood.
And in particular, I co-lead the Responsible Fatherhood Working
Group, which is an interagency team of equally dedicated and
passionate public servants working on this issue every
single day.
And so we could have an entire auditorium full of public
servants working on this issue.
But also knowing that they need to do more and that government
needs to do more, with local actors and partners in the
nonprofit and faith community.
But they're doing that every single day and they're really
transforming how programs and services connect with fathers,
support fathers and children and families.
So really I just want to segue.
These folks, I've been bugging them a lot.
And we've been working really hard and they probably want to
hear from me less.
But it's been fun and it's been such a great four months and I
look forward to spending more time here and with them.
Joshua DuBois: Thank you so much, Diana.
She has really lit a fire under us.
Ron Ashford from HUD.
Talk to us about public housing authority.
Ron Ashford: Okay.
I'm a fast talker.
Men in public housing.
The phenomena of men in public housing is men are all around
public housing, not on the lease.
If you're not on the lease, you're not legal.
It's hard to connect to your family if you're not legal.
It's hard to connect to services if you're not legal.
So we're walking down this road and the road that we've looked
at is Father's Day.
So we have 300 housing authorities all across the
country who are celebrating Father's Day,
an opportunity to connect with their children and also reaching
out to our other federal agencies,
to the Boys and Girls Club, to the NFL,
to a lot of different partners to set up resources
for the dads.
We're going from Father's Day to first day back to school to
community service to the Omegas.
We need everybody to work with us in the area of
public housing.
I want to salute Alexandria Housing Authority, who's there.
Baltimore, who's there.
D.C. is over here.
And Montgomery County.
Thank you.
(applause)
Joshua DuBois: Before Ron started this work, there were zero public housing
authorities doing a formal Father's Day event.
And because he has been an evangelist for this,
now there are 300.
That's truly innovation, Ron.
Thank you so much for the good work you're doing.
(applause)
Also need to shout out a key partner with Ron has been the
NFL Players Association have sent players to support these
public housing events.
And we have Joe Briggs from the NFLPA here.
Thank you so much, Joe.
(applause)
Vicki Turetsky, talk to us about father and child support.
Vicki Turetsky: Thanks, Josh.
I can probably go on and on, so stop me when I've hit my limit.
So the job of the child support program, as you all know,
is to make sure that children receive financial support from
their parents, even when they live apart.
And I know that we're not the most popular program
in the room.
But we stand for parental responsibility and
parental involvement.
Because when families get child support,
living at the poverty level, and they get child support,
the child support is 40% of their family budget.
This is Elaine Sorensen's research.
And moms contribute 43% through their earnings.
Dads contribute 40% through their earnings.
It makes a huge difference for families.
Child support is more than money, though.
It -- the research says that receipt of child support
improves educational outcomes.
Kids stay in school.
They do better in school when they get child support.
Now child support is probably a proxy for parental involvement,
for paternal involvement.
And that's the point.
That's the point.
It's money, but it's also meaningful in the sense of
family relationships.
If you're a mom and you're getting child support,
you know that you have someone who has your back,
someone who can step in if something happens to you.
If you're a dad, you know that you're doing for your child what
might not have been available to you as a child.
You know that you're a man.
You know you're taking care of your child.
And if you're a child and your dad is paying child support,
you know you have a father and you know that your father
puts you first.
So Stacey and I agree about many things.
We've known each other for a long time.
But look, I was a single parent before the child support system,
the formal child support system got underway.
And you know, it's not all or nothing.
Sometimes my partner, my former husband, was involved,
and sometimes he wasn't, over the course of our children
growing up.
When he paid child support, my son had money for saxophone
lessons at school.
And when he wasn't paying child support,
my kids wore bread bags underneath their boots because
they had leaks in them.
It makes a lot of difference.
The money makes a lot of difference.
But even more, the involvement makes all the difference.
And that's why we're here.
Dollar for dollar, child support income --
dollar for dollar, child support income makes more of a
difference in child outcomes than any other source of income.
And that's because it's coming from the other parent,
from the dad.
Now we know in our system that some fathers struggle to pay
child support, 25 to 30% of our case load.
And so we're doing a number of things to,
throughout our system, throughout our state/federal
system, to improve our services and to be more responsive to
dads in all kinds of circumstances.
We really are shifting away from a strict enforcement process to
one that focuses on early intervention.
And that means setting realistic child support orders.
That means debt reduction.
That means connecting unemployed fathers to employment services.
That means making sure that all the money that's paid is going
to families and not repaying the welfare system,
as was the past history of the program.
It means helping parents work together better and working out
parenting time plans through our partnerships with the court.
It means federal and state level partnerships with fatherhood
programs, with work force programs,
with prisoner reentry programs, with prisons.
You know, a large number of child support programs go into
the prisons at the beginning of incarceration to produce
that order.
They bring their laptop right with them and they go into the
prisons to deal with the case.
Fathering courts, and health.
Our program serves one in four kids in this country and one in
two poor kids, and both parents.
So we have an opportunity to connect those dads as one of the
largest systems that's touching dads in the country,
to connect them to health care services,
sometimes for the first time ever,
through the Affordable Care Act.
So when we think about our role, we think about the pathways
to services.
We think about the spaces, as Joe said.
We think about how to institutionalize services and
have some money flowing.
And when you're looking at candidates for doing that,
the child support program presents an opportunity.
Thank you.
Joshua DuBois: Thank you so much, Vicki.
(applause)
Just tremendous work happening through her work as Commissioner
of the Office of Child Support Enforcement.
Our final presentation, and then we're heading on out of here,
is connecting to the private sector.
We've heard about the nonprofit sector,
heard about the government sector.
But talking about the work that the private sector is doing to
advance responsible fatherhood.
My dear friend J.R. Kerr.
J.R. has been helping us form public/private partnerships
around fatherhood.
We have two minutes for you to share just a bit about some of
those partnerships that are coming together and to
acknowledge the good work of Wired Magazine, Starwood Hotels,
Visa, and others who are stepping up to the plate.
J.R., two minutes for you.
Thank you.
(applause)
J.R. Kerr: So the beauty to the American system is that we aren't locked
off doing our own thing, not integrating the great work of
different sectors.
One of the things that hit me a couple of years ago as we were
endeavoring to move the social needle forward was that we have
to affect the economy in order to effect long-term
sustainable change.
So what we've done is we've actually approached a number of
different organizations, folks from Wired Magazine are here.
Maya -- is Maya there?
Maya, could you come on over here, as well,
and I'm inviting Laura up -- Lori up.
This is Maya and Lori.
Maya is from Wired Magazine, welcome her, and Lori.
(applause)
And what we've done is we've actually approached different
brands and they have actually created economic offerings.
They've used their platform to actually affect the way that
fathers experience themselves as parents.
And so they're going to tell you a tiny little bit about what
they're doing in 15 seconds or less.
Really fast.
Lori: That is tiny, okay.
So I'm from Starwood Hotels and Resorts and we're honored to
support this initiative.
We of course work in the resort and hotel business and much of
our business is driven by family vacations.
So as we worked with J.R. on this initiative,
we realized that there was a tremendous opportunity to really
talk about what family vacations mean to strengthening families
and then extending that message to what involved fathers mean to
strengthening families and how important that is at every level
in society.
And that at every level, everybody has something that
they can contribute to strengthening fatherhood.
So we're excited to be able to support that message through our
various communication platforms.
We're excited to donate room nights so that families that may
not have the opportunity to take vacations can do so.
And we're looking forward to building on this foundation to
continue to support this into the future.
Thank you.
(applause)
J.R. Kerr: And Maya works with Wired Magazine and has created this
really cool thing called Geek Dad Day.
Tell them very quickly about this project.
Maya: Okay.
Thank you so much for being here.
I am a mess because I've been crying throughout all of
your great work.
(laughter)
So I just -- so we are doing national --
taking over Father's Day in our own way doing National
Geek Dad Day.
Our editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson,
has five children of his own, and he was trying to relate to
them and be a good parent and they had differing perspectives.
So in the end, he decided he would try a project that they
both liked, and they built a robot and the robot shot him in
the back side.
So --
(laughter)
-- anyway, which was the start of an amazing blog,
and I have with me the managing editor of that blog, Matthew,
back there, as well.
But we -- so we have over 86,000 people registered to participate
in National Geek Dad Day to do STEM activities, science,
technology, engineering and math activities with their children
on Father's Day.
For those of you who don't know, in the next ten years,
80% of all jobs will require technology,
science and technology skills.
So while you have plenty on your plates already as you look at
employment stuff, science, technology,
engineering and math will become very important.
As part of this initiative we --
so we are partnering with 13 museums across the country,
you should know this.
There's a sign out there that has a list of them.
It's also on our website, Wired.com\GeekDadDay, to have --
who are doing geek dad activities on those days.
There's a lot of them that have free entry for fathers
and grandfathers.
But they're also donating tickets through this initiative.
For the rest of the summer we're sending out a bunch of these
kits which are like basically electronic Legos that you can
put together in simple activities,
and it comes with little wired activities,
as well as geek dad books, which is a book of science,
technology, engineering and math activities that will go to the
public housing programs.
Joshua DuBois: Wonderful.
Thank you.
(applause)
Thank you so much.
Friends, as you can see, there is tremendous work happening
around the country, and this is just the beginning of
the conversation.
Let's continue this work in the days ahead.
We have everyone, nonprofits, faith-based organizations,
research firms, federal agencies, NFL players,
we have Cato, June and Nolan here,
so thank you so much for the tremendous work you're doing.
So many folks contributing to the fatherhood movement.
And the President, the Attorney General,
the Secretary of Education, are right there with you.
We are celebrating you today, this Father's Day,
and every day.
Thank you so much for being here with us today.