Happy Mother’s Day to Toya Graham
April 29, 2015
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
Q One last thing. The President often has talked, when issues of racial tension have come up, about how he perceives things, or tries to look at things as a father. Toya Graham is being talked about as sort of a hero mom for her specific and videotaped interaction with her son in some of the more intense moments that occurred in Baltimore. I’m just curious — has the President seen any of that? Does he have any evaluation of it? Does he believe it is something that adds to our understanding about the role of parents in situations like this?
MR. EARNEST: I haven’t spoken to the President about this specific thing. I do feel confident in hazarding a guess that he has seen the video. The President, as he alluded to in the Rose Garden yesterday, does believe that there is a role for parents to play there in terms of setting guidelines and doing right by their kids. He also pointed out that there are certain policies and certain situations where it’s virtually impossible for parents to do right by their kids. And trying to confront those obstacles to responsible parenting is one thing that we all need to take responsibility for and not just pin that responsibility on police officers who already have a very difficult job.
But the President, even dating back to his first presidential campaign — and you covered some of these events — remember that the President, in rather colorful fashion on occasion, talked about how important it is for parents to impose some guidelines and to impose some structure on their kids, and that that was going to be critical to their success, and that there is a lot, there’s a significant role for the government to play in terms of putting in place policies — like good schools, economic opportunity, early childhood education, even making sure that kids have good access to health care I think are in line with the kinds of things that the government can do to try to address some of these endemic problems.
But the President also believes that we should not overlook the critically important role that parents can play in setting some guidelines and setting some structure for their kids to give them a chance to succeed.
Q Based on your memory and my memory of that particular speech — and you, I’m sure, have seen the video, you have a hunch the President has seen it. Without saying whether or not the President would have acted in a similar way or endorse Michelle asking in a similar way, do you think he would generally be okay with what he saw and this ultimate result, which was to discourage her son from participating further in the activity?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think what I — why don’t I just say it this way. I think what resonated with me is — and he has got a lot more experience being a parent than I do, but let me just say what resonated with me —
Q As do I. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: As do you. So maybe we should hear what resonated with you. But let me just say that the thing that resonated with me was her expression that she was concerned about her son facing the same fate as Freddie Gray. And while I’m sure that it was not the immediate reaction of her son to feel like she was looking out for his best interest, there is no doubting that her reaction was one that was rooted in her concern for his safety and his well-being and her love for her child. And I think that is a very powerful expression about the role that parents can play, that that expression of love was very conspicuous and one that I think will serve as a powerful influence on that young man’s life.
And that same kind of passion and concern and love for the well-being of one’s child I do think is the kind of thing that can contribute to a young man or woman having the kind of opportunity to succeed that a lot of other kids don’t get.
Happy Mother’s Day