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Smith Goes to Washington to Hear First Father

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
July 7, 2010

There was a little preaching to the choir when President Barack Obama made his day-after Father’s Day speech in Washington, D.C., last month and Malcolm Smith was happy to be part of that choir. The family scientist knows the importance of the male influence in families; he studies both.

So, getting the chance to go to Washington along with other family researchers, educators, program directors, and community leaders to hear the president talk about responsible fatherhood was a thrill.

“I’ve rarely been to Washington, let alone been in the company of the president,” Smith says. “Plus, this is a big area of interest for me.”

An associate professor with Cooperative Extension, Smith provides support and leadership to all of the extension’s programs that serve New Hampshire families. Last year, when the president’s fatherhood initiative was launched, Manchester was one of six cities nationally where it was rolled out. Secretary of Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to the Granite State to lead a discussion about the link between fatherhood and educational achievement.

Smith was chosen to lead a New England effort on responsible fatherhood.

The Washington event took place June 21 at THEARC, (Town Hall Education, Arts and Recreation Campus) a nonprofit organization that caters to underserved children. Obama spoke to the importance of fatherhood.

“Boys need to be around good men—as do girls,” Smith says. “The president understands that. He gets the research.”

To Smith’s point, in his speech Obama said, “And in each of these places, each of these leaders posed a simple question: How can we as a nation—not just the government, but businesses and community groups and concerned citizens—how can we all come together to help fathers meet their responsibilities to our families and communities?”

Obama is demonstrating that he has heard and read­ and values­ the research, Smith says, noting Obama stressed the need to.

“This administration cares about improving family life, and I’m proud that we are participating in that,” he says, adding, “It was truly inspiring to listen to the president and know the passion he has for making this country a better place to live.”

“And it’s not just the president,” Smith says. “I think the feeling in D.C. is this is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

One of the most inspirational moments for Smith was when Obama declared fatherhood, above all the other positions he has held, to be the most challenging, the most fulfilling, and the most important of all.

“To hear the president of the United States say what we say in our work— ­it was an amazing experience,” Smith says.

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