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Mr. HUELSKAMP. Thank you, Congresswoman Hartzler. I appreciate you leading our efforts and discussion tonight on a very important topic. Obviously, as you do mention, it is oftentimes a forgotten topic. I'm certain we all have our stories about our dads, and I was really blessed and still blessed with a very active and involved father. I will just say as a farm kid, probably the most poignant story I do recall with my dad was after a hailstorm. You know, being a farm gal yourself, the damage a hailstorm does to the family, does to the economy, and does to your crops. We were sitting out in the yard, and there were 3 or 4 inches of hail all around. And we listened to it bounce off the roof of the pickup for 30 minutes, and then it stopped. I said, Oh, gosh what's going to happen next? What's dad going to say?
He put the pickup in gear, and then we drove around in silence for another hour, and then we got out and we went back to work. That's the kind of message that I learned from my dad--you don't give up. You roll with the punches, and you keep doing that.
But tonight, I don't want to talk just about my father or my children, although I would love to do that. My wife and I have not been blessed with any of our own biological children. We have been blessed with four adopted children. So there are four sets of moms and dads out there that have dedicated children that are in our care.
One thing I do want to speak directly to fathers who are listening today, and fathers, I want to challenge you to be a hero for your children. I want to challenge you to be responsible, committed husbands to the mothers of your children. I challenge you to live out fatherhood courageously, but to live this courageous, responsible, heroic role as father, it requires marriage: marriage truly understood as the exclusive and permanent union between one man and one woman coming together to become husband and wife, mother and father to the children.
I would also like to speak to all of America, as I know my colleague has done. It is vital that we encourage fatherhood in the context of marriage and uphold policies that reflect the truth, the truth that fathers are not optional, but they play a vital role to their families, and restoring America must begin on the home front. It begins with encouraging and supporting committed, responsible fatherhood in the context of marriage.
We know who the victims of the vicious fatherless cycle are: they are our children. It is our children, the children of America, who are left to suffer the scars of the abandonment of their absentee fathers. As my colleague noted and quoted the President, he was accurate when he said we know the statistics, and yet I'll repeat them because they're so powerful:
Children who grow up without a father are four times more likely to live in poverty and to commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home. The foundations of our community are weaker because of fatherlessness.
Furthermore, absent fathers don't just hurt our children, they wound society. It is a fact that the welfare state has to expand when marriage and families decline. It has been estimated over $229 billion in welfare costs from 1970 to 1996 can be attributed to the breakdown of marriage. And specifically, a study in 2008, 1 year alone, estimating that divorce and unwed childbearing cost American taxpayers over $120 billion a year.
This was a study of more than 5 or 6 years ago. Where there are absentee fathers, it's you, I, your families, our families, our communities, our churches, our neighbors, our cities, and the government, we're all forced to step in and try to pick up the broken pieces of these shattered marriages.
This is not fair to mothers and children. Wives deserve committed husbands. Children deserve protective, responsible fathers.
The facts speak for themselves. But one story I will note, and then I'll close quickly, is it was not far from here a few weeks ago I was crossing a crowded street here in Washington, D.C., and there was a line of kids. I think they were with a babysitter. And there was about a 2-year-old young boy, and he looked at his babysitter as he's crossing the street. She's dragging him across. And he asked again, I could hear him. He says, ``Who is my daddy? Who is my daddy?'' And that babysitter didn't have an answer. ``Shhh. Don't worry about that.'' He kept asking the question, ``Who is my daddy?''
We should have an answer. We should have an answer for that little boy. We should have an answer because we should know. We should expect, we should demand, we should promote, we should push fathers, encourage them, demand of them to hold up their responsibilities, because there is a disease in America, and it's the disease of fatherlessness.
We must overcome the myths in society that see no difference in whether a mom or a dad is involved in a child's life, because it is, there is no doubt. You can look at tons and tons of social science data over and over. It's very clear.
But for that 2-year-old boy, that 3-year-old boy, we have to have an answer who is his daddy. And the daddy is not the government. He has a daddy. He should be involved. Our policies should reflect that goal, because every child deserves both a mom and a dad.
And I look forward, hopefully, as we continue to press forward and solve these problems, we promote marriage and promote fatherhood.
I appreciate your leadership tonight, Vicky, for your efforts here.
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