I was delighted to see a recent article about a new book on the marriage of Barack and Michelle Obama. Christopher Andersen, a former editor of People magazine, who called his book “Barack and Michelle Obama — Portrait of an American Marriage,” interviewed more than 200 people to get the details.
Although I have yet to read the book, the article indicates it is really good stuff. Frankly, I have often been frustrated by articles that encourage black men and boys to emulate Mr. Obama’s modeling as a black man, and even as a black father, but are strangely silent on the need to follow his example as a black husband.
Interestingly, the president and I have several things in common. We are both black men who were raised by single mothers, attended Ivy League schools and married accomplished women who graduated from Princeton in 1985. Accordingly, I think I am on pretty sound footing when I state that, like me, the reason that Mr. Obama has been able to break his legacy of father absence is not because of his professional and political success, but rather because he is married to Michelle. No baby mama for Mr. Obama.
You see, good fathering, like real estate, is about location, location, location, and the fact that Michelle is in the house — White House or otherwise — is key to Barack being the kind of father that he never had.
In the community of fathers, he is not the only one who gets it. In fact, in a recent National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) survey of dads’ attitudes about fathering, eight out of 10 fathers agreed that men generally perform better as fathers if they are married to the mother of their children. Of note, six out of 10 fathers strongly agreed.
In addition, when it came to being a good father to their children, men who were not married to the mothers of their children usually listed their relationships with the mothers as a key obstacle to that goal.
As Mr. Obama’s example clearly illustrates, the best and most durable societal glue is a strong and healthy marriage between a father and his children’s mother. Such marriages are the way to break the troubling legacy of father absence and consistently connect fathers to their children, heart to heart.
That said, I do have one bone to pick with Mr. Andersen’s characterization of the Obamas’ relationship.
He states, “They’re devoted to each other. It’s unique.”
Actually, it’s not unique. It’s marriage. And lots of couples in the black community are doing the same thing.
The problem is that the press spends more time covering black rappers than black weddings, and often fails to highlight the benefits of black marriage — and marriage in general.
No doubt this neglect has been instrumental in facilitating a pernicious self-fulfilling prophesy that has yielded two out of three black children living in father-absent homes.
Finally, I sincerely hope that in his book, Mr. Andersen spent as much time chronicling the benefits that Michelle has received from being married to Barack.
This article, like most that I have seen, focuses on the benefits that Barack has received. (e.g., “She is the reason he is where he is,” the author says.)
I have been happily married for 27 years and I know firsthand that a good marriage is about giving and receiving. Over the years, I’ve had women friends who weren’t big on marriage — or who had children with guys who clearly weren’t marriage material — say, “I can do bad all by myself.”
Accordingly, I think that it’s essential that women hear from the first lady that “you can do pretty darn well with him, too.” No doubt, this is the way she feels. Just look at the portrait on the Andersen book’s cover.
• Roland C. Warren is the married father of two sons and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative (www.father hood.org). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.