Several months ago, during the news conference at which Dr. Dobson announced he was stepping down as Chairman of the Board of Focus on the Family, the media were on hand in full force. I was there to support him in that watershed moment. After Dr. Dobson was finished with his remarks, I had a few minutes to speak with the reporters who had come to our campus.
The first question I received was this: ”How does this move change the future of Focus?” I said that the media is often critical over our efforts in the public square which can, at times, overshadow our core mission, namely, strengthening marriage and families. I added that what Focus is actually looking for—and is wanting to help create—are more families like that of President Barack Obama; a man and a woman raising their kids.
As we know, the key to a strong country is the family, the basic building block of a strong civilization. As you might have guessed, the journalists listening to my response collectively dropped their jaws. One of them raised his hand and said, “I can’t believe you’re actually saying something nice about President Obama.”
I responded that my using the Obamas as a positive example doesn’t mean we agree with all the social policies the Obama administration advocates—or the personal beliefs Mr. Obama mhas on issues we care about. Clearly, there are many places where his policies are at odds with our positions, such as the sanctity of life; in fact, there are many times his policy positions seem at odds with his own family values: He clearly loves his young daughters, but says in supporting abortion that he wouldn’t want to see them “punished” with an unplanned child?
But I was not trying to start a public-policy debate that afternoon of Dr. Dobson’s news conference. I was only pointing out that President Obama appears to be a good husband and a good father—and that’s a good thing. We need more men like that—men committed to their families—in this nation.
A funny thing happened in the wake of my comments. The Denver Post requested and printed an interview with me which, in turn, resulted in an invitation to participate in President Obama’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative on June 19th. Since I believe there is value and opportunity in looking for common ground, even if it may be a small patch, to so I flew to Washington, D.C. for what turned out to be a refreshingly on-target meeting. Take these comments, for example, by President Obama:
“If we want our children to succeed in life, we need fathers to step up. We need fathers to understand that their work doesn’t end with conception; what truly makes a man a father is the ability to raise the child and invest in that child. And we need fathers to be involved in their kids’ lives not just when it’s easy, not just during the afternoons in the park or at the zoo, when it’s all fun and games, but when it’s hard, when young people are struggling and there aren’t any quick fixes or easy answers. And that’s when young people need compassion and patience, as well as a little bit of tough love.”
I think you and I can agree with that message, right? Personally, I resonated with the President when he spoke about feeling his father’s absence. I felt that same absence in my own life after my father left our family when I was 6. Mr. Obama said:
“That’s something that leaves a hole in a child’s heart that a government can’t fill. Our government can build the best schools with the best teachers on Earth, but we still need fathers to ensure that the kids are coming home and doing their homework and having a book instead of the TV remote every once in a while. Government can put more cops on the streets, but only fathers can make sure that those kids aren’t on the streets in the first place. Government can create good jobs, but we need fathers to train for these jobs and hold down these jobs and provide for their families.”
Here’s one more excellent perspective offered by our President: “It’s about showing up, and sticking with it, and going back at it when you mess up, and letting your kids know, not just with words but with deeds, that you love them and that you’re always—they’re always your first priority.”
Come to think of it, that’s a message we at Focus on the Family have been trumpeting for more than thirty years. No, I don’t agree with this President when it comes to abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, “hate-crimes” legislation, the economy and a long list of other issues; I, and Focus on the Family, will continue to speak out on these issues we think the president has gotten and continues to get wrong. But this one he got right.
And it’s important for me, as a Christian first and a conservative second, to point that out when I see it. Frankly, I hope to see more of it. Whether I do, only time will tell.