Since the release of my book “Fatherhood Rising To The Ultimate Challenge” last year, I have traveled the country to encourage young people that they can be anything they want to be in life no matter what their circumstances.
As a former professional basketball player, it always amazes me
how much hearing that message from an athlete or rapper or actor they recognize resonates with them. It’s the reason why I started a fatherhood movement and connected with a wide a range of men to give personal accounts about responsibility, triumphs, struggles and what it takes for young people to succeed.
This fatherhood movement has been rapidly growing and what's reaffirming is that very often the young men who we encounter want to do something with their lives- they want to make the right decisions, they want to have an impact on the world. They just are looking for guidance.
That fact is sometimes lost on many who still see young people as the scourge of society. But at a recent fatherhood panel during the NBA All Star Weekend -- which featured Pastors Joel Osteen and Carl Lentz, current and former basketball stars Dwyane Wade, Allan Houston and Michael Redd -- I was encouraged that so many young people are craving the answers to life's challenges. Moderated by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and held at the Lakewood Church in Houston, the panel attracted thousands. I stayed afterwards talking to people young and old for about two hours as I signed books and took pictures.
Indeed, an unfortunate reality is that these types of events are usually not covered by the mainstream media. It seems that mainstream medi outlets only want to focus on the negative things that athletes do, not the life affirming things many of us engage in daily
Many of the young people who attended the event were from single family households. Each panelist discussed fatherhood from a different perspective. But I wanted the young people to know that the while there are many negative statistics about the outcomes for families headed by a single parent, that should not stop any one of them from reaching their potential.
But what all of us told the young people that day is that they keep following their dreams no matter what their situation or circumstances. Will there be obstacles? Yes. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. But there are too many examples of men who were able to be successful and make the right decisions who came from so called "broken homes."
Indeed, I remind them: President Obama came from such difficult circumstances. That's not to say that he didn't still feel the pain and anger of not having his father growing up, but he also didn't let that stop him from following the loftiest of his dreams. I always reiterate that fact to young people and often their eyes light up with amazement that the president actually had to overcome similar obstacles in his own life and now has a beautiful family of his own. He was able to beat the statistics
So, as an appointee to the president’s Fatherhood Initiative, I am going to continue this Fatherhood Movement and continue to link with amazing men and have panels and town hall discussions in different cities across the nation. All in an effort to inspire an entire generation to believe in themselves no matter what negativity, statistics, or discouragement they are being bombarded with. This is the book and movement I wish I and so many young men and women who came from single parent households had when we were growing up. The stories of these men and most notably President Obama, could have encouraged a lot of people that I grew up with. My overall goal is to inspire an entire generation.
Etan Thomas is a former professional basketball player and author, with Nick Chiles, of “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge,” “More Than an Athlete,” and “Voices of the Future.” He is also a member of President Obama’s Fatherhood Initiative. To read more, visit Etanthomas.com or follow on twitter @etanthomas36