Interview With Jim Daly of Focus on the Family

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jim Daly, president and chief executive of Focus on the Family, has become

the public face of the organization since James Dobson, founder of the

Colorado Springs-based Christian mega-ministry, stepped down from the board

in February. Daly was in Washington last week to participate in President Obama's

White House conference on fatherhood. He has been at Focus on the Family since 1989 and was the organization's international field director for Australia, Africa and Asia.

Staff writer Jacqueline L. Salmon interviewed him. Here is an edited transcript:

Q. Tell me about your plans for Focus on the Family. How do you plan to change the organization or keep it the same?

A. On the social issues, there is consistency. I am pro-life, I am pro-traditional marriage. At the same time, I'm also a person who looks for the conversation. I do want to talk to people who wouldn't necessarily agree with me. That doesn't offend me. I'm kind of a results-oriented person. The question I have is where can we meet on common ground? Like today, can we lift the issue of fatherhood and make a difference in the country together? I think it's a good thing for the country. I don't know on the tougher issues like abortion, like traditional marriage or homosexual marriage, what can be done there. But it's a democracy. We get our voice out there, and that's my goal -- to be part of the process.

When Dr. Dobson stepped down as chairman in February, you said at the press conference, "What we want to see is more families like Barack Obama's." What did you mean by that?

I meant simply a man and woman committed to their marriage and raising their kids. That's kind of core to Focus on the Family's message. That's the irony of it. He exemplifies in his family what we're trying to do every day with all the help that we're trying to provide. We get 10,000 phone calls, e-mails and letters a day. Probably about 10 percent of that 10,000 is emergency-oriented. Some people call in with suicide [threats]. We have a counseling staff of 28. We see as our responsibility as fellow citizens to step into the gap for people and help them. In the arena of the media, 90 percent of our budget goes to what we call nurture and 10 percent goes to the policy area. But when you talk to people, they'll get the impression that it's the opposite.

Do you plan to be as outspoken as Dr. Dobson was on politics? During the presidential campaign, for example, he said that Obama distorted the Bible and said he wasn't going to vote for Sen. John McCain (although he later reversed that).

In the 20 years I worked with him, what people often don't see is that deeply compassionate counselor. That's his background as a child development expert. In that area of policy, he's very feisty -- a black-and-white person. And I think that served the country well in terms of clarifying positions and things like that. We will definitely be rigorous in the policy debate. We're not going to back out of that or back off expressing a biblical worldview in the public square.

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