Let's Reclaim Dad for Father's Day

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Comes now the celebration of dear old dad. Time to get out the greeting cards, neckties, socks and the grill. Time to honor Daddy, Pops, the ol' man -- fathers who help mold boys and girls into productive men and women.

That's the way we did it with our father, the way my two sons and daughter have done it with me, and how my grandkids will do it with their dads.

But for too many children, and for far too many dads, Father's Day won't be celebrated that way this year.

War, for instance, has a nasty habit of getting in the way. It's hard to hand out gifts when the man of the hour is in Iraq, Afghanistan or some military outpost where dependents don't get to go.

Death and divorce are also painful separators on Father's Day, as many children will undoubtedly discover this year.

Father's Day is also a good time to hold up a mirror to our community.

The fatherhood reflection in the nation's capital is nothing like the warm and slightly daffy image of dad projected in TV sitcoms.

Some of the men in the mirror are hardly protectors or pillars of strength. Some have relinquished the responsibility of parenting -- to the mother, a grandparent, a stepfather, even the government.

Some of these men don't even know where their children are, let alone what they're up to.

Is there any hope for a return to the Father's Day of old? There's reason to think so. This week's Jet Magazine cover story, "America's Favorite Family Man -- How Obama Is Restoring the Image of African-American Males," suggests that the president is having an indelible impact. Ron Kirk, the U.S. trade representative, told Jet that Obama has had "a profound and inspirational effect on African American men. He has challenged our community to live up to our responsibility to take care of our children and play an active role in their lives. He has challenged us . . . to provide for our families and, most importantly, to be the best fathers we can be."

That message has been lost on some.

I'm talking about those fathers who are leaving their children to be raised by the D.C. government.

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