By Rich Lowry
The Hendricks County Flyer
Tue Sep 18, 2012, 03:18 PM EDT
After all the oratory at both political conventions, one line stands out. It was from Michelle Obama, talking about her late father, Fraser Robinson, and his insistence on paying his small portion of her college tuition bills on time. "You see, for my dad," she said, "that's what it meant to be a man."
In one moving sentence, she opened a vista on a life of self-sacrifice. The narrative arc of her rendition of his life bent upward, and understandably so. He was a working-class father who raised two Princeton University graduates. But she could just as easily have invoked a sense of the country's loss.
Because we don't really make Fraser Robinsons anymore. He was a high-school-educated man who married and stayed married, who worked and kept working despite considerable adversity. Whatever his relative lack of education and skills, he was a hero of character, shaped by mores that have been eroding for decades.
According to Michelle's convention speech and to published accounts, her father was a pump operator at the city water plant in Chicago. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a young man, and still got up to work every day. The first lady described how she watched him "grab his walker, prop himself against the sink, and slowly shave and button his uniform." When he came home, he'd reach down to lift one leg after another to make it up the stairs and greet his kids.
It's difficult to imagine a more affecting depiction of everyday dutifulness than that. With his wife of 31 years, Marian, Robinson built a family deeply invested in his children's future.
Too few men in his position now do the same. The 2010 study "When Marriage Disappears," a publication of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values, tells the story. In the 1970s, 73 percent of adults with a high school degree or some college were in intact first marriages. In the 2000s, 45 percent were. In the 1970s, 50 percent of blacks at that level of education were in intact first marriages. In the 2000s, 33 percent were.
As recently as 1982, just 13 percent of births to people with this level of education were out-of-wedlock. In the late 2000s, 44 percent were. Among blacks with a high school degree or some college, the figure was 75 percent.
Males with a high school education have been dropping out of the labor force for decades. One flip side is a drastic increase in the rolls of Social Security Disability Insurance, despite better medical care and less strenuous jobs. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute points out that many of the additions are for vague conditions like mood disorders. Forty years ago, Fraser Robinson left for work in pain every day - walking on two canes - and now a small army of his fellow Americans schemes to get paid for doing nothing.
Through his faithfulness, Fraser Robinson gave Michelle and her brother an incalculable gift. "The parental characteristics that employers value and are willing to pay for, such as skills, diligence, honesty, good health, and reliability, also improve children's life chances, independent of their effect on parents' income," Susan Mayer writes in her book What Money Can't Buy. "Children of parents with these attributes do well even when their parents do not have much income."
The tectonic plates of the culture and economy shifted since the 1960s to squeeze the likes of Fraser Robinson, at the same time the government has been subsidizing a version of the family - single-mother households - that makes him superfluous. The new norm that dispenses with duty-bound fathers is not good for families, and it is not good for men.
Michelle Obama powerfully described her father's pride. For him, to be a man was to be responsible, day after day. His quotidian courage was her windfall; that it is becoming increasingly rare is our tragedy.
(c) 2012 by King Features Syndicate
December 10, 2013
Indiana’s lopsided win in the Old Oaken Bucket game ended yet another disappointing season for those unfortunate enough to call themselves Hoosier Football fans. As a member of that tortured lot, the climactic victory over hapless, one-win Purdue offered little solace.
December 9, 2013
December 7, 2013
When I woke up Saturday morning, I gave a customary online scan of Friday’s sports, mainly for a recap of the Pacers’ home game against Milwaukee.
November 18, 2013
Most people recall where they were upon hearing significant news in their life, whether it was positive or negative. I remember where I was when I heard now-former Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens was going to the Boston Celtics.
November 12, 2013
Having gone to a football school in the heart of basketball country, I was never around soccer in my youth, and thus haven’t been a soccer guy in adulthood.
November 5, 2013
I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we've seen this before.
October 29, 2013
There have been a lot of big games played in Indianapolis, none bigger than the Colts' unforgettable win over New England in the AFC championship seven years ago.
While next Monday's visit from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won't eclipse that monumental event, there is no doubt that the city has never and will never experience another night like No. 18's return.
October 17, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
A post to YouTube goes viral, and now a Clearwater family is seeing how much the world loves a precocious little girl who did something special for her deaf parents.
December 13, 2013
© 2013 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. ·
CNHI Classified Advertising Network ·
CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2013. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Our site is powered by Zope. Some parts of our site may require
you to download the Flash Player Plugin.
Terms and Conditions
Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN
8109 Kingston St., Suite 500