Soon most American families will gather for our national celebration of Thanksgiving. On this day, family reigns supreme — at least until kickoff.
No doubt, countless families will thank God for the Nov. 4 election results, which are sending Barack Obama; his wife, Michelle; and their two daughters to the White House.
Whether or not you voted for Mr. Obama, he and Mrs. Obama usher in a powerful example of what a successful, healthy and happy black family can look like — and this is a “change” that couldn’t have come at a better time.
It is now 43 years since Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Labor Department official, wrote an internal report for the Johnson administration about joblessness, poverty and crime in inner cities. His report, “The Negro Family — A Case for National Action,” became a seminal document because he dared to write that unwed childbearing in black communities was feeding those destructive cycles.
He defied social-science wisdom when he “argued that the rise in single-mother families was not due to a lack of jobs, but rather to a destructive vein in ghetto culture that could be traced back to slavery and Jim Crow discrimination,” Kay S. Hymowitz wrote in an incisive 2005 City Journal article, “The Black Family — 40 Years of Lies.”
One in four black children are born to fatherless homes, Mr. Moynihan wrote in 1965. This is a catastrophe for children, especially boys, he said. And it’s destroying lives and communities.
Mr. Moynihan took a lot of heat for his report, but today, with 71 percent of black children born to single mothers — and the overall rate of unwed childbearing closing in on 40 percent - just about everybody is unhappy that so many children are born into “fragile families.”
The election of Mr. Obama to the White House is certainly a historical first. But from a family culture point of view, he and Mrs. Obama also may have historical consequences because they are likely to stand as excellent role models for the black family.
Both of the Obamas are educated, articulate and competent. They are clearly independent people; he’s a strong black man, and she’s a strong black woman.
And yet they also are devoted to each other and to their children. They value each other. They respect each other.
They also protect their marriage and their relationship. One dog that didn’t bark in this election was their personal life - I don’t recall hearing a single rumor about Mr. Obama’s fidelity.
Instead, after 14 years of marriage, the Obamas are clearly in love with each other. They go on regular dates with each other to keep that spark alive. And they both actively raise their daughters: They know these two girls need an attentive dad as well as an attentive mom.
What will our black family culture look like four years from now after we’ve watched this presidential couple live competent lives as husband and wife, raising their children together?
It seems entirely probable that Mr. Obama and his first lady will inspire millions of young black men and young black women to follow their personal example, and be serious about getting an education, be serious about getting married, and be serious about raising their children together.
That would indeed be a change to praise.
• E-mail Cheryl Wetzstein.