The Obama administration is taking its effort to promote responsible fatherhood, which it launched with a White House town hall event just before Father's Day, on the road, hosting a half-dozen town halls in the next few months in different parts of the country. The first event will happen in Chicago next Wednesday. It will feature a videotaped message from President Obama, a roundtable and networking session for local nonprofit groups, presentations by administration officials, and a panel of local dads, according to an adviser for the effort.
"Given who's in the White House, we have a chance to do some very powerful messaging and role modeling on fatherhood," says Judy Vredenburgh, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, who is helping advise the effort. "This is a subject that the president feels strongly about, so we're moving in the momentum of Father's Day."
The nationwide tour is being managed by Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships with input from the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Vredenburgh is a member of the council and sits on its task force for fatherhood issues.
"This might be the most culture-changing of all the initiatives" of Obama's faith-based office, says Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical activist. "The old script was that conservatives care about fatherhood and families and that liberals don't. Here you have a Democratic, progressive president who is making fatherhood and family a huge priority, which helps to put the culture wars to rest."
Wallis also is a member of the president's faith advisory council.
The White House declined to comment on the fatherhood town halls, including on the locations of the events after Chicago.
But Vredenburgh says that the Chicago event will feature Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to presidential aide Valerie Jarrett; David Hansell, deputy assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services; and Alexia Kelley, director of the faith-based office at HHS.
When he created his faith-based office in February, Obama expanded its mission to include striving to "support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood."