"This isn’t an obligation. It’s a privilege, to be a father." So said President Obama on Friday at a town hall event in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Gathered together in the town hall were an astounding group of accomplished men: Tony Hawk, Motorola’s CEO Greg Brown, Law and Order’s B.D. Wong, and many others spoke to a group of children of all ages. Before taking part in the town hall these amazing father figures dispersed throughout DC in order to witness various programs helping youth around the city.
At Merritt Middle School Dwayne Wade and Alonzo Mourning arrived to be greeted by the Senior Apprentices at the Life Pieces to Master Pieces program. Life Pieces to Master Pieces or LPTM provides a mentoring and education program to children ages 3-21, providing role models, life lessons, and an art program to their participants, called apprentices. Wade and Mourning arrived to the clamorous singing and drumbeats of the junior apprentices in the program. The children were delighted to have the two basketball stars talk to them about the importance of the program in which they were participating, which features this year features 100% high school graduation rate among their senior apprentices.
Meanwhile, across the city B.D. Wong and Dr. Steven Rosen were speaking at the Asian American LEAD. AALEAD is a local organization with a mission to help increase the opportunities and ability of low income Asian American children to become successful and self sufficient adults. Twenty to thirty students sat eagerly waiting to hear BD Wong speak about being an actor on Law & Order. Though many of the children were too young to have watched his show, they all listened intently as B.D. Wong shared his diverse perspective as a gay Asian actor. He spoke to the students about the importance of self esteem and being "true" to oneself. He also spoke about his unique experience as a father with his partner. At the end of the event, all the students jumped at the opportunity to take pictures with B.D. Wong and Dr. Rosen. One of the students even stopped Dr. Rosen on his way out and asked for his business card because he wants to be a physician when he grows up.
When the men returned from their day trip they met in the East Room to participate in a dialogue about their experiences as fathers. The Office of Public Engagement was prominently featured in the form of Mike Strautmanis who served at the MC throughout the introductions of the father figures. The President and Vice President entered the discussion and promptly came to a consensus that being a father was better than being President.
After the town hall the high school students had a chance to sit out on the South Lawn and talk one-on-one with these fathers. The students and fathers talked about politics, sports, and their life experiences. Acclaimed cook Bobby Flay gave lessons in grilling to the young men and the President.
Friday’s event kicked off the President’s national fatherhood initiative to highlight and advocate for responsible fatherhood. He honored successful programs around DC in celebration of all those men who serve as father figures to youth across the country.
Happy Father’s Day.