The importance of families

Published 8:24 pm Monday, June 30, 2014

By Joseph Bass

One of the great challenges of American society involves the shortage of traditional families. Attempts to create a Great Society through the welfare-based War on Poverty have seriously weakened this important institution in several segments of our society.

Too many homes are led by single mothers with no father figure providing financial or moral support. Too many children grow up not having a positive father figure in their lives.

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President Obama said, “Families happen because you have a society that is supportive of families.” A reasonable conclusion is that segments of our society do not support families. Segments of our society support homes led by single mothers with no father figure around.

Clearly that is not a positive situation for those who live in these segments of society.

Barack Obama’s life is an example of a successful family of many players. They included his mother, Ann Durham; his father, Barack Sr.; his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro; his grandfather, Stanley Durham; and his grandmother, Madelyn Durham.

While growing up, Obama did not lack for moral and financial support from family members, both male and female. His grandparents were there for him and his mother. Although his mother divorced his father, she was never estranged from him and encouraged young Barack to feel connected with his father and stepfather.

President Obama said his mother was the dominant figure in his formative years. His mother, who holds a doctorate in anthropology, valued education and encouraged her son to excel in school.

Michelle Obama’s life history follows the traditional American family pattern. She has said she was raised in a conventional home. Her mother was at home, her father worked, and they all ate dinner together. They went to a Methodist church. Her family valued education and encouraged their children to excel in school. She holds a law degree from Harvard Law.

Barack and Michelle Obama are following the traditional American family pattern with their daughters. They are a functioning, successful family doing well in the American mainstream economy and culture.

The same cannot be said for those segments of our society that live within the negative culture fostered by welfare programs. In fact, War on Poverty programs have weakened families. Women with no man in the house received increases in income based on how many children they had. Programs encouraged single motherhood and provided economic incentives for women to have children outside a traditional family.

My father was a rehabilitation counselor in Oklahoma. His major assignment focused on getting people off welfare. His job paid the bills but provided little satisfaction for him or his coworkers. They experienced few successes in getting people to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Most of his clients were women with many children by several fathers.

In his efforts to encourage and help women get jobs he often talked with their children, asking them what they planned to do when they grew up. Typically the boys were without focus in terms of getting an education, getting a job or raising a family. Many girls said they planned to get “welfare babies.” The girls’ plans were based on seeking income through having babies outside a traditional family structure.

Although welfare programs have been somewhat restructured during recent years, they continue to foster government dependency instead of fostering self-reliance and self-sufficiency. These programs must be transitioned out of existence and replaced with efforts to create more families like the ones the Obamas were raised in.

How many talented children with their potential are being lost to American society, because their parents are trapped in a cycle of government dependency?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at