Monday, June 22, 2009
In a 2008 speech, Barack Obama addressed the issue of fatherhood in America. Understand the context. A full four out of ten American children are born without a father at home. He said, “The duties of fatherhood do not end at conception.” He paused for a moment to let that one sink in. Then he added, “What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. Any fool can have a child…” Another pause. “That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise that child that makes you a father.”
Obama seems quite comfortable as a father in the “fishbowl” we call the White House in large part because he made a commitment to give Sasha and Malia something he did not have as a boy growing up. His own dad walked out when he was very young. When he convinced Michelle to marry him, he took many of his cues from her dad who died two years before they were married. As they courted, he learned a lot about the role of a dad from him. Michelle let Barack know in no uncertain terms that she expected him to take parenting seriously, should that day come.
Obama talked about the little things that count between father and son. His own dad, who abandoned him, still did things that had major impact. When they had next to nothing, he gave young Barack a basketball for Christmas. He introduced his boy to jazz. Both of those little things opened doors to big things. Dads matter, the President said.
CBS Sunday Morning, on their Father’s Day program, captured something of our President’s view of fatherhood. They call it “Father in Chief.”
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Matt Luke took the stage on Sunday morning as a local businessman, former professional baseball player, and fellow church member. When Pastor Matthew interviewed him, he talked about his pursuit of a baseball career – and how it landed him first on the Yankees, and then the Cleveland Indians and then the Dodgers and finally the Anaheim Angels. An injury cut his career short – but not so short that one of his many big-league homers was caught on video.
That crushed home run was a special moment for a couple of big reasons. He was an Angel. It was in a game against the Yankees. On the air, the game was called by Angels’ the popular sportscaster Rex Hudler. It was Father’s Day.
After the big-league video from ESPN was played and all of us clapped and cheered, Matthew introduced Hudler who bounded to the front of the room in his Angels jersey, a firecracker of a man full of energy and infectious laughter and good humor and the two giant guys, Matt Luke and Rex Hudler, shared a big old man hug right there in front of the crowd. More applause.
Hudler’s reaction to the homer in the video set up the whole interview – back on that day on television Rex got pretty emotional over the left-hander who smashed that ball high into the upper deck against the Yankees on Father’s Day. And here they were together again on the platform, years later in front of hundreds (actually a couple of thousand for the weekend) of grandpas and dads and boys on Fathers Day. The two of them talked about the things that matter most in life – mainly their commitment to follow Jesus.
And now they are dads.
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I sat there thinking about my dad, and how much he would have enjoyed this kind father’s day. He loved it when strong guys came together, open about the hard times but thankful for the great moments that keep us all going. I also thought about my three guys – a son and two sons-in-law and how proud I am of them as dads.
Then a line up of about ten or twelve young couples filed up on that same stage to dedicate their new little children to God. It always gets me, this circle of life – those newbie moms and dads who fell in love back then and look what happened – those beautiful little kids. They’re all standing there not quite sure what hit them. Grandparents shoot photos. They need prayer. They got it.
And I looked around the big room and saw a bunch of older guys who seemed a little uncomfortable sitting there; like maybe their own sons and grandkids dragged them out on a Sunday morning to darken the door of a church which they rarely do and I could tell the whole thing got to them too, like it would have my dad, and did me, and I thought – this is too good. You can tell by just looking at them – they’ve taken some hits. Life has collected its toll. Age is settling in.
But this morning – a reminder: you matter, Dad. You count, Grandpa. You are a loved man. Welcome to where you belong. Take it in.
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So they all called in yesterday, my three guys. I let them know. They fill me with pride. They make me smile.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009