Picture the scene: Boys and their parents gathered to discuss a "youthful indiscretion" and its consequences. I was once at such a meeting, and I was struck by the thought that what America needs perhaps more than anything else is fathers who will father.

I’m the mother of two teenage boys, and believe me, I am well acquainted with the behaviors that have led to the popular phrase "boys will be boys." But I am also blessed to know what it means to my sons’ development and character for them to have a father who holds them accountable, is engaged in their lives, and is intimately familiar with their strengths, weaknesses, personalities and individual needs.

On that particular evening, several parents had heavy hearts. Their sons, with no ill intent, had landed in trouble by making some pretty sophomoric decisions (specifically, entering a nearby abandoned house). Sounds pretty innocuous -- except that there were "No trespassing" signs posted in clear view. But that incident (thank goodness, now but a memory) ended up being a lesson in life for the boys -- a lesson that will undoubtedly help them avoid making bigger mistakes later in life. Why? Because their fathers stepped in to make certain that the lessons were learned.

That’s the kind of father my sons have. This month, my husband and I celebrate 21 years of marriage, and I consider myself one of the luckiest wives on earth. My husband is my hero (for many reasons which shall remain private!) but one I am willing to discuss is the fact that he’s an amazing father to our three children.

I recently had the privilege of watching my eldest son become an Eagle Scout. I peeked my head around the corner just in time to hear the District Council representative of the Boy Scouts say to my son, "Congratulations. Your rank of Eagle Scout begins tonight."

About 30 minutes earlier, Drew had emerged from his hour-long Eagle Scout Board of Review both relieved and nervous. Although the official ceremony will take place in the coming months, for Drew the night was the final requirement of nearly a decade of achieving goals, working hard, earning merit badges, volunteering and developing leadership skills. For me, it was a night to reflect both on the man that Drew has become, and on the man that helped him accomplish one of the greatest achievements possible for young men.

I am proud of my son, but I am absolutely enamored with my amazing husband.

Plainly put, Drew would never have made the rank without the support, encouragement, guidance and love of his father. Yes, Drew worked hard over many years, but it was his father who coached him, went on countless camping trips, studied with him, taught him about discipline, and most of all, showed him how to be a committed leader and a man of strong character.

Social science research, statistics and real life unequivocally tell us that the safest, healthiest, most nurturing place for children is in a home with a mother and father who are married to each other. Yet, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, some 24 million children live in homes where fathers are absent, meaning one in three children "go to sleep in a home in which their father doesn’t live." Fatherlessness is the great American tragedy of modern times.

Given that so many children lack the fathers they need and crave, why is it that the popular culture constantly devalues the role of fathers instead of building it up?

Flip on the television and watch for just one evening. You’ll find that virtually every commercial and sitcom portrays fathers as either wimpy or ignorant. The message to our kids is pretty clear: Dads are losers.

What does that say to our children about the value of their own fathers? To young boys about their own possible futures as fathers? To young girls about what to look for in a future husband? To the men who are already dads?

The media must be crazy. But I ain’t crazy -- either as a columnist or a wife. So as just one small voice in today’s mass media, I’m going to do my part to say to all the great dads out there, "Thank you. We need you."

And to the wonderful fathers of the families we are so thankful to have as close friends and allies in the effort to raise boys of character, I say, "Thank you. It is a true blessing to have you in our lives."

And to my wonderful husband -- the man of my dreams -- "Thank you. I love you. Happy Anniversary to the best dad in the world."

© 1995 - 2005 The Heritage Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad.

First appeared on WorldNetDaily