Michael Strautmanis, Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, will moderate the conversation on fatherhood. He will introduce five fathers from a diversity of backgrounds who will share their personal stories about their commitment to fatherhood and personal responsibility before introducing President Obama.
Background on the five fathers who will share their stories during the discussion on fatherhood:
Juan Carlos Artero, Arlington, VA
Juan Carlos is a graduate of Year Up, a national model organization that forms public/private partnerships to provide a one-year, intensive training program that gives urban young adults a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend and corporate apprenticeship. After graduating from the program, Juan Carlos was the first alumni to be offered a full-time position at the Year Up National Capital Region site as a Junior Technology Instructor. He is currently attending Northern Virginia Community College, working towards an Associateâ€™s Degree in Network Engineering. Juan Carlos is a native of El Salvador and resides in Arlington, Virginia with his fiancĂ© Julissa Torres and their 16-month old daughter, Shantell Alexa.
Joe Jones, Baltimore, MD
Joe Jones is founder of the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore, Maryland. Joe was formerly a substance abuser; he became a teenage heroin addict after his parentsâ€™ divorce and was addicted for 17 years. Joe spent time in jail and fathered a son for whom he could not care, but he turned his life around to become a tireless advocate for populations facing the same battles he once fought.
Joe is now a national leader in workforce development, fatherhood, and family services programming, and through his professional and civic involvement influences policy direction nationwide. His ability to engage and provide hands-on services to fathers has garnered him the reputation of a trailblazer in the field. Joe has received numerous awards and honors for his leadership and programming, including the Johns Hopkins University Leadership Development Programâ€™s Distinguished Leadership Award. Heâ€™s also served on President Bill Clintonâ€™s Work Group on Welfare Reform, was an advisor on fatherhood issues to Vice President Al Gore, and contributed to First Lady Laura Bushâ€™s Helping Americaâ€™s Youth initiative.
In 2006, at the age of 50, Joe became a cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He and his wife Debra live in Baltimore and have three children.
Mike Laas, Bettendorf, IA
Mike Laas and his wife Pat live in Bettendorf, Iowa. Theyâ€™ve been married for 31 years and have twin daughters, Molly and Kelly, who are 27 years old. Mike owns a small business in Bettendorf where heâ€™s worked for 34 years, and heâ€™s experienced firsthand the daily struggles that many fathers face: balancing work and his family. Heâ€™s also learned the importance of a strong family, as heâ€™s done battle with blood cancer for the last four years. Mike had a stem cell transplant last summer, and believes that without the support of his wife and daughters he would not have done as well as he did.
Mike is also on the foundation board of the Bettendorf Family Museum and on the development board of the Humility of Mary Housing Project. Being involved with his communityâ€™s childrenâ€™s museum and local single parent transitional housing project has allowed Mike to help other children and families in his area.