Best Father’s Day ever

Happiness for me is listening to “number one son” clinically describing what merchant banking is.
For 33 years, I’ve been unable to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to Chioke Templeton.
Now that he’s a newly minted assistant vice president, well, it’s all I can do to avoid skipping up and down the street.
Even the World Cup has reminded me of some of the previous high points. As a young soccer prodigy, he once scored six goals in a game, and just missed a seventh from mid-field by just inches.
And the NBA Finals reminded me of coaching his fourth-grade basketball team.
Viewing Nelson Mandela sparked memories of our trip to the Oakland Coliseum to see the newly-freed anti-apartheid fighter.
But the thing that makes this Father’s Day even more fulfilling is being around other folks children. Last Tuesday, we launched Potrero Progress, an effort by the Potrero Family Resource Center of the Economic Opportunity Council of San Francisco with funding from the Community Service Block Grant of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to demonstrate how to improve the lives of young people by connecting them with the careers of the future. Our first trip was to the International Society of Stem Cell Research conference. Mind you, at the same time, the sixth game of the Finals was going on.
Twenty years ago, I learned at Castlemont High School in Oakland that black youth were just as interested in science and math as anyone else. Working with Dr. Grant Venerable and Dr. Rhea Settles and Abdul Luqman, we showed how to convert those concepts into art and music.
Ten years ago, we took a challenge at Thurgood Marshall High School in San Francisco from principal Dr. Sam Butscher that we could motivate his special ed students into technology careers. With the help of the first class of the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology, including Mike Beasley, then of IBM, and Roy Clay Sr., we coached them to create a venture capital presentation to form a company to test video games.
A couple years later, we spent weeks in the Stanford School Redesign Network to create a viable school plan around these concepts. Since then, inertia and close-mindedness have conspired to keep this approach from getting into schools–despite the fact that current methods are failing miserably.
Thanks to Joe Tasby, a former science teacher who heads the Family Resource Center, and the indefatigable deputy director of EOC, Darnisha Wright, we’ve gotten the opportunity to put the design into effect.
While describing the project to journalist Farai Chideya during a chance meeting on Fillmore Street, I told her without hesitation that the young people would achieve the California framework standards for several science concepts in 30 days.
When she asked the source of my confidence, I had two decades of student excitement to draw upon, most recently the young lady who leaned forward during the stem cell panel to ask when we were going to Mission Bay.
The same group will be visiting San Francisco General this week, not as patients, but to hear a custom lecture from the top officials of the hospital and a scientist recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Thankfully for my son, I’ve been grinning from ear to ear about the opportunity to see these young people bloom, at least enough to take my mind off him. He had the chance to explore science at Morehouse during the summer when he was in high school. I have no doubt that the young people of southeast San Francisco are ready for the same exposure.
My father used to drive us a hundred miles every Sunday up to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina after church. I just saw a picture of me at one year old on a mountain peak. Didn’t realize at the time that he and my mother were sending us the message that there was no height we couldn’t aspire to.
By the time I was five, I’d rock on the porch with my namesake grandfather, John William Tatum, and describe how I would run for president in 1992, the first year I’d be eligible, after being elected to the Senate a couple years earlier. His response was to call me “Senator” for the rest of his life, despite the fact that blacks couldn’t even vote in N.C. in 1960. (The plan worked, just not for me!)
Any time someone provides that message for a young person, they’re being a father.
The best thing about my conversation with number one son was that he was so interested in working with the other young people, something he’s done as a volunteer throughout his ten years in banking.
“I just love working with kids,” he said, notwithstanding having reached his highest career milestone to date.
I think I’m doing something right.

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