Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible. -Francois de La Rochefoucauld
An amazing thing happened to me a few weeks ago in Mechanicsburg, Pa. I was invited to speak at a fatherhood conference on the corporate point of view – or lack thereof – on the crisis of fatherlessness. Going into the conference without fully knowing what to expect, I was hoping to gain an insight or two that would help me steer Fathers & Families into 2019 and beyond with renewed purpose and resolve. All non-profit leaders need to recharge their organization’s batteries, ideally with the juice that flows when more and more people “get” what they are trying to do — in my case to have more people recognize that now, more than ever, kids need their dads.
At the same time, perhaps against the backdrop of the political “silly season” of the midterm elections — during which it seemed hard to hear more than three people agree that the sun rises in the East – I feared the prospects of spending two days jousting with other speakers and participants whose opinions were at odds with mine.
Now picture this. Over 100 people. Men and women. Black and white. Blue collar and white collar. Old and young. Agencies from federal, state, county and local levels. People from Pennsylvania (lots from Philadelphia and Allegheny counties), New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona, California and elsewhere. Non-profits very large and very small. Commonwealth legislators, academics and, yes, one corporate type. Passionate people, all unified in our belief in the importance of fathers and in our commitment to make a difference in the lives of fathers, mothers and their children.
The approaches of the participants were varied. Some are helping dads in prison stay connected with their kids. Some are helping parolee dads get back on their feet. Job training, navigating the court system, helping expectant fathers understand how their lives are about to change, drafting father friendly legislation, teaching dads what it means to be a dad, bringing dads into schools, creating videos of inner city dads reveling in the roles they play in the lives of their children (see below), conducting focus groups with kids talking about the importance of their dads, and much more. Yes, the approaches were varied. But the spirit and comaraderie across all participants were palpable, as was the passion that ignites when people are inspired by a common goal.
It was an extraordinarily energizing two days. I left with a renewed sense of purpose along with exciting opportunities to collaborate with wonderful new contacts. Yes, the challenge to win hearts and minds on the importance of dads and restore fatherhood to its rightful place remains a long and arduous one. But the Central Pennsylvania experience showed that what may sometimes seem impossible just might be achievable, especially because so many committed people have their shoulders to the wheel. And none is more important than Dr. Rufus Sylvester Lynch, the head of The Strong Families Commission, whose tireless efforts and uncanny abilities to plan and execute made this great symposium possible.
So on Thanksgiving Day, I offer a special prayer of thanks for Dr. Lynch, an extraordinary connector, leader, and visionary. I applaud all of the Mechanicsburg participants for their dedication and commitment to making a difference. And I thank all of you who can join us on this journey to support fatherhood, an effort that moms, kids, dads, our communities, and our country so clearly need.
Check out this video that Dr. William Champagne showed and discussed in Mechanicsburg.
Real Dads, Strong Families