Daily, I read dire headlines that scream of murder, crime and children dying on our city’s streets. I always urge fathers to unite to help protect children as they are a critical buffer to delinquency, poverty and crime.
This time, we have an example of what that buffer of paternal involvement can mean.
I want to congratulate Darold Butler, manager of the Little League U.S. World Series Champions Jackie Robinson West (JRW).
Butler, whose son DJ is the team’s center fielder, called baseball a “game of fathers and sons” that teaches life lessons. His statement reveals to the world what I already see – paternal involvement changing lives.
Butler is raising a team of champions on and off the field.
“He’s guided me the whole way,” said DJ about his dad.
“He always makes my teammates laugh. He makes us do everything, and he always lets us have fun and be together.”
Indeed, the entire team reflects Butler senior’s dedication. Imagine what the headlines from the South Side of Chicago would read if Darold Butlers everywhere stepped up to cultivate the next Kirby Puckett, a Chicago native and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps, the team’s successes would spill over into academia to produce 13 college-bound high school graduates in an area that not so long ago claimed a 50% matriculation rate.
These headlines, like JRW’s performance, would reveal the true spirit of Carl Sandburg’s Chicago, a city “so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.”
It’s the same pride and determination that fueled the architects of the Chicago World’s Fair just two years after the city burned to the ground. Their team work helped make Chicago the greatest city in the nation.
Chicago is a city that rises from the ashes again and again.
This time, JRW rose from one of the most crime-ridden areas in the city to become the pride of the nation.
In a letter to me, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn commended the boys, Butler and the parents. But I want to focus on Butler and all the other dads who engage these boys and encourage them to excel.
More dads should join them to reverse the trend across the nation, where statistics show an estimated 24 million American children live absent their fathers. This issue is especially critical in the African-American community, where 63% of black children are reported to be living in homes absent their biological father.
The problem reaches beyond the African-American community, however. Father absence is the most reliable predictor of crime in America, according to FBI statistics as I quote in my book, Fathers’ Rights.
Even in the face of these grim statistics, I am inspired by JRW’s success and am looking forward to the celebration on Wednesday.
I agree with Gov. Quinn, game after game, “These boys have shown what you can accomplish with teamwork, determination, and a whole lot of heart.”
They have demonstrated that people from this city really are champions, especially when their fathers show them the way, as Darold Butler has. After all, a boy can’t be what a boy can’t see.