"Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times," writes G. Michael Hopf in his 2016 dystopian novel, "Those Who Remain."
Times are tough for families. Many parents are working two jobs to keep up with inflation, they’re witnessing seemingly endless overseas conflict with fresh horrors arising daily. We are navigating deep political divisions here at home, and 78% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
We live in uncertain and turbulent times, and the role of fathers has never been more important or more neglected. We exist in a vicious cycle where weakened families are creating a weakened nation – and as a result, institutions we have long relied on are crumbling.
Military recruitment is at unprecedented lows, the male labor participation rate continues to decline, men are taking their own lives at a higher rate than ever before, and violent crime is on the rise in major cities across the United States.
The question many of us are left asking: where are America’s men?
Fathers are absent. Right now, 1 in 4 children in America are raised without a father, and the United States now bears the burden of being the world’s leader in fatherlessness. Those that are at home are spending less and less time with their children.
In the U.S. the average school-age boy only spends about 30 minutes per week in one-on-one conversations with his father. The same boy, on average, will spend about 44 hours per week watching television, playing video games and searching the internet.
One of the worst social trends of our time is the decline of fatherhood and the decline of traditional values.
To rekindle the strength that defines our nation, we must recognize that Michael Hopf’s cyclical truth applies to our culture of fatherhood: weak men create weak fathers, weak fathers create weak families, and weak families create a weak country.
This month, I became the first governor in the nation to set aside a month specifically dedicated to the celebration and promotion of families. I did so because it’s never been more important to remind ourselves of the importance of the nuclear family unit.
This Oklahoma Family Month, I’m encouraging parents to embrace quality time, go the extra mile, and pour into their family.
It is said, as the family goes, so goes society. We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-family state in the nation. We recognize that children need engaged parents now more than ever.
As Sarah’s husband and my children’s father, I know there is a delicate relationship between time at home and time at work. If we fail to recognize that the greatest gift we can be given in life is a family, then all of our priorities fall out of line.
Only once we recognize that the strength of the family unit hinges on men embracing their role as fathers, can we say that the good times are here to stay, as Hopf would say.
The strength of our children comes directly from what they were taught in the home. While they play an essential role, we cannot leave the rearing of our children solely to teachers, coaches or school leaders. That is our duty as parents.
My challenge to you is this, maximize time with your families. One of the best things I do as a dad is take my kids to school every morning and put them down to go to sleep. The common denominator in all successful families is being there and being present with your kids.
There will come a time when we are not here to lead our communities and our nation. We need to equip the next generation to take our place. It’s up to us to point them in the right direction, instill our values and prepare them for any challenge the world may throw at them.
Throughout Oklahoma Family Month, we will promote family time by encouraging families to get outdoors together, sit down to dinner together, and spend quality time together. We’ll promote resources that empower families to overcome difficult times, and we’ll encourage communities to surround each other and lift each other up.
If I accomplish anything as governor of Oklahoma, it will be nothing if I sacrifice my family. I am proud to put the important things first.