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Fatherhood, Family and Our Future

A summary of an OPE briefing on the President's Responsible Fatherhood Initiative.

Following President Obama’s remarks on the importance of responsible fatherhood, the White House Office of Public Engagement hosted a briefing of 50 leaders representing some of the foremost advocacy groups, faith-based organizations and coalitions working on fatherhood and mentoring from across the nation.

The Administration’s nationwide effort to support responsible fatherhood aims to help re-engage absentee fathers in the lives of their children and to send a clear message to fathers everywhere that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations. Men are also encouraged to serve as mentors in their community, investing their time in supporting the growth and development of a child.

A wide range of individuals and organizations participated in the recent briefing, from members of the faith-based community to devoted fraternity groups. One attendee, Bishop Michael V. Kelsey, Sr. of the Full Gospel Baptist Convention called the experience "significant" for both him and his two sons.

“The work of fatherhood is such an incredibly important aspect of our country, our community, and our families that we must all (including the President) continue to aggressively address the endless issues of fatherlessness in America," said Bishop Kelsey.  "As a Christian and a father, I join the President in his initiative to enhance the positive impact of fathers in the lives of their children around the nation."

Tina Tchen, Director of the Office of Public Engagement, welcomed everyone to the White House and also discussed the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Paul Monteiro, who serves as an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement, delivered a comprehensive talk on President Obama’s fatherhood Initiative, encouraging attendees to sign pledge cards and to ask others in their communities to do the same.  Signing the pledge cards demonstrates an active commitment to being a responsible father and engaged mentor.

Greg Nelson, Deputy Director in the Office of Public Engagement, delivered an update on the BP Oil Spill to convey the magnitude of our relief efforts on the ground, and the Administration’s commitment to long-term engagement in the region addressing restoration of the land as well as the economic well being of local citizens. 

Dr. Cecilia Rouse from the Council of Economic Advisors provided an overview on the state of our economy and the progress being made as we continue on the road to recovery. Brian Deese of the National Economic Council provided information on current proposals and initiatives that support ongoing recovery efforts including a proposed Small Business lending fund.  Also on the economic front, Meaghan Burdick, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Small Business Administration, discussed the issue of parity – efforts to balance the administration of the SBA’s business development and contracting programs: 8(a), HUBZone, service-disabled veteran and soon, women-owned small businesses. 

On the health care front, Dr. Garth Graham, Director of the Office of Minority Health with the Department of Health and Human Services, talked about health care implementation and reminded attendees that “this is about us.” Our goal now is to make the broad health care reform conversation more practical and to educate people about the real benefits of policies such as rebate checks delivered to seniors to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs, and requiring new health insurance policies to offer free preventive care with no deductible, co-pay or coinsurance payments. Dr. Graham also advised visiting the new healthcare implementation website, for more details.

It was clear that people left the session with a new sense of appreciation not only for the President’s commitment to responsible fatherhood, but also for his leadership on a host of important issues. As demonstrated by the dedication of the President’s team, the goal is, and will always be, to capitalize on these moments when we can bring leaders together who will go back to their communities armed with information, a renewed spirit, an increased awareness and a solid belief that we are making progress on the road to economic recovery and future prosperity.

Michael Blake is Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.