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Father in Chief

January 14th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  4 Comments

Credit: Courtesy of David Katz

Credit: Courtesy of David Katz

I watched Obama’s memorial speech two nights ago at a college bar in Tucson called the Hut, a three minute drive from the University of Arizona basketball arena where the service was held. The bar projected the speech on a big screen behind a little stage. The Arizona League of Conservation Voters bought a bunch of pizza for the assembled crew; microbrews were just $3 each (why, again, do I live in New York?).

If you’re into things like memorial speeches or presidents, then you’ve probably already seen the speech. So you already know it was a rather phenomenal moment. He worked like Barbara Walters in that bar: everyone got teary, and they weren’t even that drunk.

I just want to point to one section of his speech, where he really got that hope-y, change-y thing to work for him:

I believe we can be better… in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

I’m not one for breeder-superiority. I think it’s a fantastic decision not to have kids, and I don’t think becoming a parent makes you smarter, more compassionate, more enlightened or anything except a hell of lot more tired.

But I will say this: I am glad our president is a father to young children. The thing that he really gets is that idea of expectation: that your child can change you even when they’re an infant, because suddenly you have to live up to all their innocence and adoration. Most of us fail. We all fail. Of course. But there are moments when we might just make a decision that is actually smart or brave or selfless because of the knowledge that someone out there wants you to be a better man.

That someone who believes in you is not, by the way, your wife, who’s way too smart to think you can actually change. That someone is your child, who will believe in you all the way up until that night in December 2019 when you do that thing with that thing, and then there’s antifreeze involved. Then she will realize what a putz you are. Until that happens, though, there’s going to be adoration and expectation.

That filial expectation is why, now that Obama is done making his lyrical address about reconciliation, he should go back to Washington and kick a tremendous amount of Republican ass. I wouldn’t advocate that, perhaps, in other times. But this upcoming week, Republicans will try to kick millions of children off of health insurance. They will try to drag the country back to the days when you could tell the rich people because they were the ones with teeth. Obama, as father and as president, had better get ready to fight, and if he has to, fight dirty. For the sake of his children. And mine.


  1. Tessasdad says:

    January 14th, 2011at 11:44 am(#)

    Absolutely agree with you on this! Great post guys!

  2. Jeni says:

    January 14th, 2011at 11:58 am(#)

    Yes, it is our children who look up to us and it is OUR responsibility as parents to raise them properly (how we see fit). Our “glorious” government isn’t going to raise them for us, no matter if it’s a republican, democrat, independent, etc. IMO, the ONLY thing are government is doing (both republicans and democrats) is dividing the people. They (along with the media and most of the citizens) are stuck in this “it HAS to be republican or democrat, there’s no other way” mindset. Well guess what, it’s not working. We need another option. But when a legit alternative, that just might actually work, shows up….it gets shut out by the media. Until we open our eyes and see past this two party government, nothing is actually going to progress. It will be a back and forth battle between rep and dem like it has been for 20+ years.

  3. Nathan says:

    January 14th, 2011at 12:05 pm(#)

    Agreed, especially about how two-party politics end up looking more like a gang rivalry than actual governance. But this health care issue isn’t about Dems or Republicans, it’s about quality of life for all Americans. It just so happens the Republicans are on the wrong side of the issue.

  4. JP says:

    January 14th, 2011at 3:53 pm(#)

    How are you so confident that everyone on the opposite side of this issue from you is unequivocally wrong? It’s this kind of thinking that there is no opinion of value from the “other” side that keeps us from progress. It’s also why having only two parties representing only the extremes is such a problem as well. It creates no room for compromise if you truly think that someone with a different opinion has no shred of value to provide to the discussion. It’s an issue that both “sides” need to figure out so that we can move forward.

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