OBAMA FAMILY PORTRAIT
In this chapter Obama talks about his own experience growing up without a biological father present in the home and his present married life with Michelle and their two children, Malia, born on the fourth of July, 1998 and later Sasha born June 10, 2001. He contrasts his personal life, as he has done often in this book with his experience outside the home and with learned studies and statistics.
The fact that he only knew his biological father for a few weeks in his preadolescence years left an emotional hole in his life. This was true despite the fact he lived with his mother and her new husband in Indonesia for four years. However his stepfather, while a responsible man, was a distant one and sometimes a troubled person by the political realities of Indonesia at that time.
He also spent his later years with his grandfather, Stanley, and his grandmother Madelyn. Obama tells us that his grandparents provided a stable and loving home. Madelyn was away from the home much of the time due to fact she worked as an administrative officer at a bank. Stanley had a succession of jobs that he never succeeded at. While he and Stanley had a close relationship it was not the same as if his biological father was present in the home.
When Barack married Michelle they were both Harvard trained lawyers with good jobs. Barack had political ambitions which Michelle was doubtful about but went along with. Later when their first child was born this put added strains on the family life of a working couple, both lawyers, and one with political interests. However they were fortunate as Michelle’s mother worked close by and limited her hours so she could help the family. Later, though, when Barack’s political duties called him to Springfield Illinois, the state capital, and later to Washington D.C. the strain on the family caused by his absence was increased. However Michelle and the children adjusted to the give and take of having a politician father and their ties remained strong. Michelle and he made many sacrifices in family life and work life to make things work.
Obama points out that for most Americans marriage and family life is the most popular way of life. By the age of 45, 89% of women and 83% of men have been married at least once and married couples head 67% of households. So marriage is perceived to be the best way for personal relationships to bond and for child rearing.
Still 50% of all first marriages end in divorce and although the divorce rate is declining there is still a significant number of one parent households with children. Beyond that some people prefer not to marry but to cohabitate and have children. In 2006 36% of children lived in households without their biological father.
In the case of African American woman the marriage rate has fallen from 62% to 36% and 34% of all African American children live in single parent households as compared with 23% of white children.
Statistically married people live happier, wealthier and longer lives. Children of single parent families are more likely to drop out of school and become teen parents. Also children who live with their biological mother and father do better in school and life than those who live in step families or families that cohabitate.
Teen pregnancy has dropped 28% since 1990 but still 25% of all out of wedlock pregnancies are by teens. And teen mothers are more likely to have more out of wedlock children as they get older. Also teen sex education advocating both abstinence and methods of contraception has helped in avoiding unwanted pregnancies and lowered the abortion rate.
Marriage education workshops help to keep marriages together and encourage unmarried couples to form a more lasting relationship on an official basis.
Obama advocates that the biologically related family is the best way for families to survive in societies where often both parents work to meet financial necessities and see that their children do well in school and grow up to be responsible citizens.
For those families that can’t afford preschool or babysitters and other necessities, then the government should assist and make it possible for their children to graduate from high school and go on to a trade school or college. Also the government should see that other social needs are met like health care for all in order to create a more stable society.