President Barack Obama
For Parade Magazine
As the father of two young girls who have shown such poise, humor, and patience in the unconventional life into which they have been thrust, I mark this Father’s Day—our first in the White House—with a deep sense of gratitude. One of the greatest benefits of being President is that I now live right above the office. I see my girls off to school nearly every morning and have dinner with them nearly every night. It is a welcome change after so many years out on the campaign trail and commuting between Chicago and Capitol Hill.
But I observe this Father’s Day not just as a father grateful to be present in my daughters’ lives but also as a son who grew up without a father in my own life. My father left my family when I was 2 years old, and I knew him mainly from the letters he wrote and the stories my family told. And while I was lucky to have two wonderful grandparents who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me, I still felt the weight of his absence throughout my childhood.
As an adult, working as a community organizer and later as a legislator, I would often walk through the streets of Chicago’s South Side and see boys marked by that same absence—boys without supervision or direction or anyone to help them as they struggled to grow into men. I identified with their frustration and disengagement—with their sense of having been let down.
In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.
Tonight on 360°, the latest on demonstrations in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei's warning, a brewing showdown between the U.S. and North Korea, and more on America's High: The Case For & Against Pot.
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/19/iran.regional.reax/art.clerics.afp.gi.jpg caption="Iranian clerics listen to Grand Ayatollah Ali Akbar Khamenei at Tehran University earlier today"]
For those of us who lived through the Iranian revolution, which toppled the government of the Shah and paved the way for the creation of the Islamic republic in 1979, there is a dreamlike familiarity to the massive riots roiling the streets of Tehran. I remember the seemingly spontaneous rallies that brought the country to a screeching halt. The young, fearless protesters daring the security forces to make them martyrs in the cause of freedom. The late-night call-and-response of Allahu akbar (God is great!) echoing from rooftop to rooftop. The strange confederacies between young students and elderly clerics, military men and intelligentsia, conservatives and reformists, all united by a common cause.
Never in the 30 years since that revolution has Iran experienced anything like the popular protests that we have seen in the past week. By now, the accusations of election fraud are fairly well known. It is implausible that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won in a landslide re-election. It is doubtful that he not only took the capital city, Tehran — the heart of the reformist movement — by a staggering 50% but also managed to win in Azerbaijan, the birthplace of his chief rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, by a 4-to-1 margin. (As an Azeri friend of mine said, this would be akin to Senator John McCain winning the African-American vote against Barack Obama.) It seems odd that the election was called so soon after the polls had closed, despite the many millions of ballots still to be counted, most of them by hand.
The young and the middle class are not the only ones outraged by these election results. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, perhaps the second most powerful man in Iran and certainly the richest, and former President Mohammed Khatami, by far the country's most popular statesman, have both thrown their support behind the protesters. Two of Iran's highest religious authorities, the Grand Ayatullahs Hossein Ali Montazeri and Yousof Sane'i, have issued fatwas condemning acts of election fraud. Even Ahmadinejad's conservative rival, Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guards commander and a far more hawkish figure than Ahmadinejad, has claimed the election was rigged.
Here at 360º, we’re deciding what to order for dinner and waiting to hear President Obama’s remarks at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington. Usually the event is a light-hearted affair, a chance for everyone to kick back and have some fun. Will the president hit the humor benchmark when he takes the stage? We’ll let you decide for yourself. It’s our “easing into the weekend” segment.
We’re following serious news tonight as well, including the provocative line in the sand that Iran’s Supreme Leader appeared to draw today.
In a sermon during Friday prayers at the University of Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khameini denied that last week's presidential election was rigged and argued that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won in a landslide. He also insisted that post-election protests by Iranians must stop or demonstrators will be held responsible for "the chaos and the consequences."
To a lot of analysts, that sounds like a green light for a harsher crackdown if protests continue. More protests rallies are planned tomorrow, and tonight there’s no sign they will be cancelled. In his sermon, Khameini also slammed U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and alleged the U.S., along with Britain, Israel and some factions in Iran, manipulated and undermined Iran’s election process.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/19/art.imrankhan.jpg caption="Celebrity Pakistani Imran Khan visited Washington this week to urge the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan."]
CNN State Department Producer
Most people remember Imran Khan as the former Pakistani cricket player and international playboy – Pakistan's version of David Beckam, leading his country to victory in the 1992 cricket World Cup.
Khan left the cricket field in 1992 and traded his signature leopard print satin pants for a career in politics. His Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party is small, but growing at a fast pace in the tribal Frontier province.
Still displaying his trademark swagger, Khan made the rounds this week in Washington, arguing in meetings with Congressional leaders like Senate Foreign Relations chairman John Kerry that there will be no peace in Pakistan's tribal area until the US begins to end its military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.
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U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 2009 National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast June 19, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/19/us.nkorea/art.kang.nam.afp.gi.jpg caption="This North Korean ship is known for having carried 'proliferation materials,' a senior U.S. official says."]
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States could defend itself should North Korea launch a missile toward Hawaii and that U.S. officials are carefully monitoring the reclusive nation's military.
With missile interceptors and radar equipment deployed in and near Hawaii, "we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory," Gates said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is tracking a North Korean ship in the Pacific that is believed to be carrying illicit weapons or technology, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.
While the United States does not know what is on the ship, the Kang Nam is a "repeat offender," known for having carried "proliferation materials," one senior defense official said.