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Just when we all need a bit of hope, up steps Barack Obama
Deep in a winter lockdown we could all do with a bit of hope. There’s one man can be relied upon to provide it.
The man who coined the phrase ‘the audacity of hope’. Barack Obama.
He even brings nobility and decency to the fairly grubby business of plugging his book. He gave an interview to David Olusoga this week to promote his memoir, A Promised Land.
It went out on Radio 4 on Thursday, International Men’s Day. The timing was coincidental. But the thrust of Obama’s words spoke more powerfully to the hopes and themes of International Men’s Day than anything specifically targeted to the day.
To be clear, International Men’s Day is not an opportunity to whine about men being treated unfairly. Tory MP Ben Bradley didn’t get that memo, and consequently he lit up the internet with his speech asking why there’s a minister for women but not a minister for men. There’s a one word answer to that: inequality.
International Men’s Day ought to be about considering the nature of masculinity, the unique pressures on men. A chance to consider what we can do better as men and for men.
That’s why we at workingdads.co.uk took the opportunity to launch our plan for building back better for working dads. I’ve sketched out seven areas that need addressing including allyship, flexible working, empathy and better paternity leave. A number of articles published on International Men’s Day pointed to the change we’ve witnessed in the role of working dads this year. The huge increase in working from home has led to men becoming more engaged with their families and doing more domestic work. But we want to go further and entrench change. That’s where Barack Obama comes in. His sign off to the interview was an inspiring and hopeful line:
Change can happen, but you’ve got to be a part of it.
It’s one thing to identify the issues. It’s another thing to act. And that’s why we drew up our plan to build back better. But we want your input, your experiences, your thoughts and suggestions to refine and improve. Please, be part of the change.
The other crucial theme to Obama’s interview was his cautious but unwavering belief in progress. He pointed to his daughter’s generation who have grown up in a society that frowns on discrimination. Those young people just can’t conceive of treating people differently according to colour, creed or the way someone chooses to live their life. That generation may not be approaching parenthood yet, but they will. And they will not accept gendered expectations.
So change can happen. And change is coming. Can we get on the front foot and shape that change to make life better for working dads, their families, and society in general? Yes we can.