Politics & Society

Oprah, Univision ... Univision, Oprah

This will be quick because we have a lot in the works — Oprah, Univision ... Univision, Oprah.

Trying to channel that bad David Letterman joke from the Oscars a few years back ("Oprah, Uma"), but I can already tell it's falling flat.

We faced a dilemma this morning. There was important new data about an increase in the teen pregnancy rate and we wanted to give some attention to that report. It's the kind of story I just don't think you can toss off in a sentence or two. We decided we HAD to hear from a numbers person, a person who works in the community and a teen. But, there were ALSO two significant (we thought) political stories over the weekend — the GOP debate on Spanish-language network Univision Sunday night, and Oprah Winfrey's appearance on behalf of White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama. We also had the interview with Zelma Redding planned because today is the 40th anniversary of the tragic death of her husband — the great Otis Redding. (He was only 26 when his plane crashed killing everybody on board with the exception of two band members.)

So what do we do?

We decided to lead the program with a recap of the Univision debate, our logic was this: everything we could tell you about Oprah today was exactly what we could tell you on Friday, which was that huge crowds are expected (29,000!), but nobody knows what it really means for the Obama campaign. Whereas, with the Univision debate, the Republican presidential contenders who have taken such a hard line on illegal immigration had to face an audience fare more sympathetic than most in a state critical to their hopes for general election victory. Plus, it was an opportunity to introduce a new voice to you — Luis Clemons, Editor of CandidatoUSA, an online publication to track the Latino political scene. I think you'll agree he's somebody we want to hear from again.

I'm still missing Oprah, but I am left feeling like we'll know more about what her appearance really means once we have some numbers or see some results. Maybe I'm rationalizing, but at least you know what our thinking was/is.

I am sure there will be lots of opinions about our interview with "Makaiya" (that is obviously a pseudonym). We decided, with consultation, that it was best not to use her real name because she is underage (17) and not under the care of an adult guardian at the moment. All I can say is that there is more to say ... and we wish her the best.

I also want to point out the interview with Zelma. We didn't have time to get into all of her business but one thing you should know is that, in contrast to the sad story we so often hear — musical genius left a pauper by bad planning, bad advice, and so on — not true here. Otis left his family significant property. A good thing, too, because Zelma was only 24 when he died ... with three small children. How she coped? We'll never really know. But she gave us a few hints, and one of them was that she seems to dearly cherish the memory of her husband and his music, which we all cherish today. That was a treat...

Now, we have some figuring out to do for tomorrow — a major Supreme Court case ruling on crack cocaine sentencing, and the sentencing of suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. (If we decide to pursue that story I'll need to get sub host in here because, as you know, my husband is representing him.)

We have a lot of think about so let's get to it.



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Your interview with "Makaiya" was riveting. Thank you for frankly (yet with compassion) asking her what some of your listeners might have been thinking.

Also, it was a treat for me to hear from Otis Redding's widow, Zelma Redding and a few music cuts that made Redding the soul music genius he was . . . "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" is one of my all-time favorite songs.

Sent by Moji | 6:58 PM | 12-10-2007

My heart is aching for this poor sweet girl, Makaia you are speaking with! I want to hug her and shake her. In this day and age our young women should make different choices regarding sex. On the one hand it sounds like she made a romantic/dramatic decision and I hope she can manage. As a mom, I can not stress to our daughters enough that actually having a baby is so extremely different from the notion of having a baby. My daughters shoolmate just had a baby and she is only fifteen. When my daughter told me I wanted to scream "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Sent by Lorraine W. | 7:59 PM | 12-10-2007

I'm with Moji, your interview with the young lady was riveting and heartbreaking. As I was listening, I couldn't stop my jaw from dropping at some of the comments I was hearing from her. In all honesty, I think she is not living in reality and doesn't realize the brevity of what she is carrying.

I truly hope she gets the much-needed support that she is going to need in order to raise this child. She may in for a rude awakening in about what's to come in 6 months time.

Sent by ernise | 9:14 AM | 12-11-2007

For an interesting read on young and poor motherhood, check out Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas.

Sent by Jaime Taylor | 10:17 AM | 12-11-2007

It really bothers me that Makaia knew so little about her reproductive system that she thought no condom (their "oops") and no baby meant she was infertile.

Also, I wish Michel would have asked her--even if she thought she couldn't get pregnant--did she think about STDs/HIV at all.

Sent by Versai | 2:49 PM | 12-11-2007

Great interview with Makaiya, Michel. I wish we could have heard from the father too. And though it didn't occur to me as I listened, I now wonder what thoughts she might have had about sex and the HIV issue in DC. The stakes just seem so much higher now than when I was a teen.

Sent by Stanley | 3:21 PM | 12-11-2007

I just listened to Makaiyah's interview and the one with the Mocha Moms regarding single motherhood. Though Mikaiyah and the Mocha Moms are definately at different points in maturity and personal development, it sounds like there was a common thread there with finding and/or building relationships in which they can truly trust. That seemed to be the case with at least one of the Mocha Moms, and it sounds like Micaiyah may have come from a home in which that was an issue. Perhaps the increase in births to single moms and teens may indicate that it has become increasingly difficult in our society for men and women to find, build, maintain, and/or to even expect healthy relationships in which partners are willing & able to respect and meet the needs of everyone, men, women and children alike.

Sent by Lee | 7:18 PM | 12-13-2007

I'm writing to provide another perspective in response to your recent program on single moms. I listened carefully to your segment because I'm the dad of a 14 year old who was born when I was in medical training dating her mother. At the time we were struggling to stay together, seeing a counselor and using birth control in the form of a diaphragm. We were both medical professionals in training.

I listened to the somewhat similar situations on your program in which a pregnancy arose unexpectedly. I gathered from listening to your discussants that they were interested in

- whether men should be involved
- whether the absence of men can be an acceptable alternative for parenting
- whether women should feel shame or not
- why men may sometimes not be held to higher standards when they impregnate women and why they are not shamed.

It may interest you to hear an alternative interest and concern. Despite a lifelong interest in becoming a dad and a vigorous effort to responsibly use contraception I found myself unexpectedly wishing for an abortion upon learning I was a father. I felt strongly against single parenting, believing that my children deserved two parents. I found myself unrepresented in the decision to proceed with gestation and delivery of a child. For me unexpectedly becoming a father this way was not only shameful and unacceptable but also completely out of my control.

In strong contradistinction to the comment made during the segment advocating that men "cover it up" (I assume this was intended to mean that men need to hear they should be responsible enough to use condoms), my girlfriend (now coparent) and I had decided together to use a diaphragm. This contraception did not work, either due to the known risk of failure or due to not being used. I cannot be sure which occurred and I have tried not to dwell on these kind of questions about conceiving a child 15 years ago.

I am very lucky to have a wife who is supportive, a 14 year old who is a gem and a parenting partner who is cooperative, but the unspoken truth, for me (that was not at all a part of your segment) was that responsible, professional unwed fathers can be made, if you will, with no negligence. Forgetting to wear a condom had nothing to do with our experience. You didn???t cover that pregnant girlfriends can ignore the reasonable requests of fathers to have abortion. Whether you believe that abortion is attractive or not, I will tell you that in our relationship, the right to abortion was a political cause that received not only attention but cash donations and considerable defense in discussions.

I did not hear in your broadcast whether the high ideals your moms expressed included any awareness that sometimes the reluctance of unwed dads stems not from negligence or uncooperativeness but from thoughtful opinions that remain unheeded by pregnant moms who are not interested in the dad???s opinion. It is precisely this buy in that makes it possible for men and women to parent together well. Without this buy-in, a lifetime of parenting can be expected, without the enthusiasm that all parents know is ideal and essential at times to raising children.

Perhaps the view I have presented is uncomfortable for your discussants but I would suggest that ignoring the possibility of such views is not only an oversight but also a common pitfall in the assessment of "family" made when discussing the good and bad effects of choosing single momhood.

Do I regret having had my daughter? I can tell you after parenting her, marrying (my wife, who is not her mother) and having two daughters in addition that I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to be the dad I am to the wonderful children I have.

But it was incredibly painful to be told, against my wishes, that I would be a dad despite my very reasonable and reasoned efforts to avoid a pregnancy. It was hard and harsh ??? for me ??? being told that I would for years support a single mom against my own goals.

I would not bring a baby into the world this way again if I could be the decision-maker. It was lucky that I came out of this with a great daughter but the price was enormous. As prior to my daughter???s conception I still believe ??? for me ??? that having two parents is my ideal and preference and that abortion is a viable option.

I also believe that the best efforts to be responsible and use contraception fail and that unwanted pregnancies will continue to occur. I do not believe that advising against sexual activity is the solution. For me, the solution is consensual parenting rather than placing all decision-making power in the hands of the mom.

Sent by Brian | 3:43 PM | 12-14-2007

As the stepmother to a wonderful child who was conceived accidentally (long before I married her dad), I shake my head with wonder at women who decide to continue a pregnancy against the wishes of the father, and *then* criticize the man for not being an enthusiastic parent. I am a strong feminist - I believe women have the final word when it comes to our bodies, including the right to continue or terminate a pregnancy. But with that right comes the responsibility to accept the consequences, which may include an absent father for the child you are choosing to bring into this world. You can't have it both ways.

Sent by Katherine | 3:58 PM | 12-14-2007