As children across our nation return to school, it saddens me to think of those who will embark on their journey without fathers to help them navigate. This is especially alarming as 24 million children live absent their biological father. I call it a journey because the route to school leads to the road of life, and children need paternal support to help navigate both.
The first day of school is a milestone in children's lives, a time when they are excited to see old friends and nervous to make new ones. Dads need to be there to celebrate and reassure their children, as well as to reinforce the importance of education, a deterrent to the evil twins of crime and poverty. Father involvement is much more important than new clothes and shoes -- it has a unique impact on a child's cognitive development, achievement in math and reading, as well as their behavior.
I recently spoke at Howard University about the critical role of fathers in education. I discussed two of President Obama's initiatives: My Brother's Keeper and Race to the Top Equity. Both programs are designed to help build life skills, create better men and promote success through education. There is no substitute for fathers, but the White House correctly believes boys who participate in mentoring programs are less likely to be arrested and more likely to graduate from high school.
The need for engaged fathers in America is grave, according to my co-presenter at the Howard conference. U.S. Major General (ret.) John Hawkins said it is now a matter of national security. Terrorists see father-absence as a flaw in the fabric of American society to exploit. I agree. Dads, take your kids back to school, protect them and lead their way to a life of success.
Jeffery M. Leving