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Barack Obama's Fathers Day Speech

Candidates' Pasts Spark Strong Ideas. Which Is Best for US?

Both assumed presidential candidates had scenes from their respective personal histories appear this weekend, giving a retrospective peek into the shaping of their contemporary philosophies.

Barack Obama used Father's Day to unleash a sharp criticism on the topic of fatherhood in the African American community, Bill Cosby-style. Obama, recalling being abandoned by his own father at age 2, said, "I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls."

He blasted absentee fathers saying they are "missing from too many lives and too many homes," and that "they have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it." He concluded his stern statement saying, "we can't simply write these problems off to past injustices. Those injustices are real. There's a reason our families are in disrepair ... but we can't keep using that as an excuse."

To see what part of McCain's past came to light this weekend,


John McCain's War College thesis was released this weekend, a glimpse into the shaping of the Senator's views on the Iraq War. In the piece written after his release from the North Vietnamese prison camp, McCain highlighted the necessity of forgiveness and sharply attacked what he called “the evils of parole and amnesty.” cushy treatment for soldiers who didn't resist like he did — calling their warm welcome “inexcusable.”

His most striking proposal was that the military should be teaching US foreign policy to its recruits. Writing, “too many men in the armed forces of the United States do not understand what this nation’s foreign policy is,” calling for not indoctrination, but “a simple, straightforward explanation of the foreign policy of the United States.” McCain still stands by the idea saying, “it is important, not just for POW’s, but all Americans serving in combat to understand the purpose and reason for the sacrifices they are asked to make for our country.”

Do either statements surprise you? In these two instances, with Obama using his past to strengthen the US from within, and McCain looking outward — which personal history makes a stronger argument for election?


Join The Conversation
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thanks Lainetm for your perspective, I have heard both terms used by academia. Regardless of what we use, it's all American history and should not be taught to some and not others; everyone should know our history.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Bella, the current "diversity" view is that we are not a "melting pot" but a "tossed salad", because we don't blend, we combine our unique and special differences. Lest you think I'm making it all up, I occasionally cross paths with the recognized expert in this field listed at the bottom of the page in this link:
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Lainetm, it does not date you at all. There are still schools that make a seperation. Its all US history whoever it happened to b/c it shaped our country. I just hate that we divide everything out based on race but then we call ourselves the melting pot.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Well, that probably dates the class (and me). :oops: I agree, bellaressa, history courses should make note of any specific issues encountered by particular immigrant groups when dealing with the relevant period. For instance, how the Irish were discriminated against when they arrived. (Help wanted signs specifying "No Irish Need Apply" were so widespread that there was even a popular song with that title. You can google the phrase.)
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I really hate the term "black history" is it not all American History. I have no idea why it is seperated.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
Sorry I wasn't here to explain myself. Some pressing matters in "real life" (what's that?) Hypnotic gave a good description of ebonics. IIRC it originated in San Francisco. As for "outdated", I was in a staff meeting early this school year where one of the certificated staff gave a presentation on her involvement/support in the topic. Here are the two areas where I take issue with support for non-standard English: (1) Recognizing and expressing approval for alternative speech patterns does not help the student learn standard English. Using standard English will help the student's future employment opportunities. Therefore these well-intentioned education tactics actually (IMO) hurt those they are intended to help. (2) We don't acknowledge all alternate "dialects" equally. Therefore, such education policies are discriminatory. As for the veiled accusations of ignorance and racism, I believe we should all recognize that there can be alternate ways of achieving a goal. And cut back on the caffeine. I'm old, :fogey: so my all-white high school was forward-looking when they offered a black history class. I took it the first session it was offered. By "compensatory education" I mean all programs that target a particular group of students, perceived to be underserved, for any reason other than physical or mental condition (i.e., special education). This includes all bilingual or "ELL" (English language learner) programs, the AVID program ("Advancement Via Individual Determination") which targets those who are the first generation in their family to attend college. My point was that this is not a neglected population, a lot of money goes into these programs. This is my career area, so I see it every day.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
Issues like volunteerism are related to government, though (e.g. programs that would require mandatory service or the federally-run program Americorps). I just don't like the idea of politicians campaigning on their views about how I should structure my family. If he wants to tie it into crime prevention or something along those lines, fine, but I don't care to be lectured about the "foundations of our families." It also seems cheap and easy to come out against absentee fathers. I like Obama; this seems beneath him. Then again, I'm of the camp that doesn't care who the president has sex with as long as he's doing his job, so I understand I'm in the minority. My priority is a president who maintains good relations with foreign nations and ensures citizens have rights and the basics as far as food, health care, and education. Personal life and promotion of family values fall much further down on the list.
em113 em113 9 years
I wish I didn't get so mad reading people's comments. People that talk about "moving on, not making excuses etc." should be required to sit through hundreds of hours of critical race theory.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
ca made me look it up, since I wanted an answer once it was mentioned...
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 9 years
Thanks for the numbers, Meg!
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"Almost 70 percent of young men in prison grew up without fathers in the home." WOOOOOOWWWWW!!! Thanks for the census numbers, meg! I also agree that an issue doesn't have to be a legal matter for the President to lead a national discussion on it. Just as encouraging volunteerism doesn't have anything to do with laws, but it is something that a true leader should encourage.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2005, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August, 2007, there are approximately 13.6 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.2 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today). Today, the racial marriage gap is enormous - Nearly nine in ten Asian children live with two parents, as do 78 percent of white kids. By contrast, 68 percent of Hispanic children and only 38 percent of black children in America reside in two-parent families.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Thanks Meg, very interesting!
megnmac megnmac 9 years
In 1998, 26 percent all families with children were headed by single parents. Press Release cb98-228.html, U.S. Census Bureau,, April 29, 1999. In 1998, 36 percent of Hispanic children and 14 percent of white, non-Hispanic children lived in single parent homes. Although 64 percent of single parent households are white, nearly 64 percent of all black children lived in single parent homes. “America’s Children: Key National Indicator of Well-Being, 1999,” Forum on Child and Family Statistics,, July 9, 1999. Boys living in a fatherless home are two to three times more likely to be involved in crime, drop out of school, and get divorced. Girls living in a fatherless home are two to three times more likely to become pregnant teenagers and have their marriages end in divorce. “Heading Toward a Fatherless Society,” by Barry Kliff, MSNBC News,, March 31, 1999. Almost 70 percent of young men in prison grew up without fathers in the home. “American Agenda,” World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, January 12, 1995.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I agree cabaker.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Anyone know the statistics on white vs. black when it comes to absentee fathers? I feel like his message would have been stronger if he would have left race out of it.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
No, the govt can't make laws to make people better fathers - but this is a national discussion that he as a potential leader of our country is entering. I didn't like the Clinton sex business in the news in the 90s, but one of my R friends explained that he is the LEADER of our country. I agree to a degree, if he represents us in the world and is representing values we believe in, it isn't just fluff. I think it also was a missive to his followers on his stance on certain issues - that he will not dwell on the past injustices, he will acknowledge them and proceed into the future with strength and action that will hopefully affect change.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
It's nice that Barack Obama would like to see more fathers actively engaged with their children, I think we all would, but...what does this have to do with him running for president? The government can't make laws against being a bad father, so this seems like your typical empty rhetoric about "family values" that makes the people in the focus group punch the button. "Values, he said values, we like values." Again, I'd like to respond to other comments, but there are too many, and it takes far to long to sift between the off topic comments and to try to piece together the conversations.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
i was referring to myself Sy. she wasn't heated but her remarks were a bit outdated and made me very annoyed.
syako syako 9 years
I don't think lain was heated. :?
nicachica nicachica 9 years
ahhhh Hypno, you say all the things i want to but am too angry to say when i see certain words (see: "minority education" "ebonics" "misguided"). methinks this latin girl needs to take a step back when her emotions get all heated up....
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well in my opinion the difference in quality of education between whites and blacks does not stem from racial prejudice but from economic class. You live in a poor neighborhood you usually get a poor education regardless of color. However, it's not that most poor kids are black it's that within the black community most black children are lower income to poverty which leaves them with little opportunity for a good education.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
"{Black, white, hispanic, asian, whatever you may be...every student deserves the same education - reading, writing, mathematics, science, civics, etc." I completely agree Nica. :drinks:
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Actually when I was in high school the professor that identified this linguistic pattern in many African Americans and tied it to ancestral African languages gave a lecture at my school. His theory made perfect sense. I think most Americans though were so hung up on the word Ebonics that they couldn't bring themselves to actually study the theory. Despite my agreement that there may be some ancestral linguistic tendencies it is no excuse not to learn proper English.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
Seriously Lain, what are you talking about? Who said anything about Ebonics??? And "minority education" is really no different than "majority education" or whatever you want to call it ("regular" education????). Because what happens when you bring minority and white students together? Do you teach them "minority" education or is that too low of a standard? Ugh...seriously! This type of thinking is just plain wrong. Black, white, hispanic, asian, whatever you may be...every student deserves the same education - reading, writing, mathematics, science, civics, etc. "Minority" education just sounds like its inferior in the first place...grrrr....:mob:
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