Kathryn Lopez

Senator Barack Obama has said that too many fathers "engage in childish things. (They) are more concerned about what they want than what's good for other people." Sound familiar? Seems that the Illinois Democrat -- who is today's cultural and political phenomenon -- has taken a cue from Saint Paul. Obama, as the first major black presidential candidate in recent history, has an unprecedented opportunity: To lead a fatherhood revolution. And he knows it. Speaking at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago on Father's Day 2005, he preached the Word and channeled Bill Cosby, known these days less for his comedy than for his lectures to black men about taking responsibility as fathers and husbands. Obama said, "There are a lot of folks, a lot of brothers, walking around, and they look like men. And they're tall, and they've got whiskers -- might even have sired a child. But it's not clear to me that they're full-grown men."

It's not shocking that Obama would latch onto such a message -- and leadership role. Now that he's launched a presidential exploratory committee he knows it's smart politics. But it's also a natural for him. In recent weeks the press spent a few days talking about Obama's "coke problem." In his 1995 book, "Dreams from My Father," he wrote, as if preparing an opponent's attack ad: "Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed." That part was heavily quoted in the media. But he added a less-quoted part: "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man."

Read on. In that book and in his recent bestseller, "The Audacity of Hope," you will learn about his father, whom young Obama knew only from mothball-covered photos, stories, and letters from Kenya, his father's native land. (His parents divorced when he was two.)

Without complaining, Obama relays that "as I got older I came to recognize how hard it had been for my mother and grandmother to raise us without a strong male presence in the house. I felt as well the mark that a father's absence can leave on a child. I determined that my father's irresponsibility toward his children, my stepfather's remoteness, and my grandfather's failures would all become object lessons for me, and that my own children would have a father they can count on."


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.