A short while ago, I had both the honor and privilege to attend the 1st ever State of America’s Fathers Summit. No different than any other high-level meeting, in attendance was a who’s who list of the top minds and advocates for an improved state of fatherhood in America. Full disclosure, yours truly was not invited because he was considered to be one of the top minds. I am under no such illusions, I am just a guy, the JAG if you will, who was fortunate enough to be able to sneak into the room.
Thanks to the recommendation of Mr. Doug French, not only was I allowed to attend but I was able to hear and watch people like J. Ivy, a phenomenal poet, who, along with his wife, generously shared several moments with me in ways most similarly accomplished people are rarely willing to do. You know, people of achievement who were not so consumed with themselves that they couldn’t make time for little old me – people whom I affectionately refer to as “The Humble Hyperions”. But I digress!
IN THE HOUSE
As luck would have it, J. Ivy was not the only luminary who stood out. There were other giants who enlightened, captivated, and inspired me too. The authorities on the state of America’s fathers expertly reminded me of the importance of many things I already knew as well as introduced me to several things that I didn’t know.
Sadly, there was the discouragingly repetitive message about incarcerated fathers most of whom are men of color – a narrative that I know all too well. There were also new encouraging themes such as the positive way men today think about being fathers and the reality that more fathers than ever before are actively involved with raising their children.
All in all, I thought the State of America’s Fathers Summit was a worthwhile event that I was more than happy to have been able to attend. Notwithstanding the quality of the “Summit”, I wasn’t quite fortunate enough to leave the event exactly as I had hoped – quoting Ice Cube “today was a good day”.
MAN IN THE ROOM
Instead, I left the Summit still wondering why a group of fathers who seem so keen on improving the world wouldn’t address the elephant or more accurately the man in the room. I wondered why the researchers and presenters, many of whom were also fathers, hadn’t spelled out precisely why gender equality, child development, and wealth gaps remain some of the major pressing social justice issues that keep America from reaching her potential and fulfilling her promises.
Throughout the day, we heard pleas for national legislation to provide for paid, equal, and non-transferable leave for mothers and fathers of newborns; entreaties for the U.S. Government to provide the poorest fathers and families with a living wage; appeals to reform the Justice system; and requests for a modernized engaged and valued perspective of fatherhood. Most importantly to me, we also learned that eighty percent of men become fathers at some point in their lives.
This eighty percent fact stood out to me more than anything else I heard. Given that eighty percent of men become fathers at some point in their lives, I found it particularly strange that none of those petitions and supplications for legislative change, income equality, and Justice system reform were ever directly targeted at the offending party – the eighty percent of men who are fathers and legislators, the eighty percent of men who are fathers and corporate leaders, and the eighty percent of men who write and/or arbitrate for those unjust laws.
TIME TO MAN UP
Although technology and automation are close to taking over the world, humans, in particular men, remain in charge. Why then do men, eighty percent who will be fathers, discuss the flaws in the law, the errors in theory, and the failings in concepts without any genuine discussion about the culpabilities of men, fathers?
Statistically and realistically speaking, isn’t it men, eighty percent who will become fathers, who create, exacerbate, and support the social, political, legal, and economic systems that cause the issues that keep America from realizing her potential? Isn’t it the same men, fathers, who profess to want an improved state for America’s fathers who are at the very same time the most complicit group responsible for the sad state America finds herself?
CHECK THE NUMBERS
Of the Fortune 500 CEOs, twenty-three are women and four-hundred, seventy-seven are men. How can men, eighty percent who will be fathers, state a belief and desire for income equality and gender equity yet operate corporations on principals of income inequality, gender inequity, and racial homogeny?
In higher education, twenty-six percent of university presidents are women while seventy-four percent of university presidents are men. Despite earning more college degrees than men, women remain nearly one-quarter as likely to become a university president. How can men, eighty percent who will become fathers, honestly state a desire for a society that is the world leader in social justice, respecting women, and diversity and inclusion, when men, fathers, intentionally maintain societal structures that make it nearly impossible for our college campuses to be governed by anyone other than the same old group of homogenous men?
THE STATE OF THE UNION
It would be easy to give more examples of men’s, father’s, hypocrisy like the dearth of women (mothers, wives, daughters) who serve in Congress, the Senate, and the House of Representatives but I suspect that you get the point. Rather, than piling on, I’ll end with this. If America ever intends to be serious about the State of the Union much less the State of America’s Fathers, America is going to have to acknowledge and address the elephant in the room – the sad sorry state of America’s men, particularly those homogenous group of men who preside, employ, govern, legislate, and adjudicate over all aspects of American life.
Men, eighty percent who will be fathers at some point in their lives, are the very reason our State is not unified. Thus, if this Nation is ever going to be serious about improving our State and solidifying the Union, more men, all fathers, especially the aforementioned homogenous group are going to have to discontinue talking out of both sides of our mouths.
Men, fathers, are going to have to make it possible for the country to be run, corporations to be operated, universities to be presided over, laws to be written, and justice to be served absent regard to gender. Men, fathers, are going to have to treat every family and every child with the same dignity they would desire of their own family and children without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, ability or economic standing.
Finally, men, fathers, are going to have to come to grips with what is truly required of a man, of a father – the mandate and necessity to embrace and foster a society where everyone enjoys the gifts of the Creator, the inherent and inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To do anything less, will make the State of America’s Fathers just another in the long line of research studies that have little or no impact on the state of America.
What do you think of the state of fathers? What do you think of the state of men?