This time of the year, news commentators and talk show hosts seem to debate everything from who was the sexiest, or the most popular, or the most talked about person of the past year. They hit every conceivable title in between.
If there were a distinction for "father of the year," I have two nominees to offer.
The first is the father of Northwest Airlines bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla. He told officials at the U. S. Embassy in Nigeria that he believed his son had become "radicalized and could pose a threat to the U. S.," according to an ABC News report.
The second nominee is David Goldman, the father who fought for five years to regain custody of his young son after he had been kidnapped and taken to another country without his consent.
Both fathers demonstrated tremendous courage while facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Abdulmutalla's father could have remained silent when he suspected his son had embraced extremist views, posing a threat to America. Instead, he took it upon himself to go to the U.S. Embassy to warn officials that his son might be a threat to America's national security. How many parents would be willing to do something like that?
I am a mother myself and must admit that taking such bold action would be a difficult choice for me to make, simply because my first instinct is to protect my children. I have learned something from this father: we all have a greater responsibility to humanity. Faced with the choice of protecting our children or protecting innocent human lives, we must act to protect innocent human lives and the larger well-being of humanity. This father deserves our respect and gratitude.
David Goldman, a father from New Jersey, recently reunited with his nine-year-old son Sean after a bitter custody battle in Brazil. Sean was taken by his mother to her native Brazil when he was just four years old, on what his father was told would be a two-week vacation. Instead, David Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, stayed in Brazil with Sean and divorced her husband after which she married a Brazilian lawyer.
David Goldman's ex-wife died during childbirth last year at which point her Brazilian husband commenced adoption procedures to maintain custody of her son. He ignored U.S. court rulings calling for Sean to be returned to his biological father, according to the New York Daily News article. Goldman never relinquished his parental rights even though Bruan Bianchi did not have Goldman's permission to keep Sean in Brazil. More importantly, Bianchi and her new husband ignored Goldman's parental rights.
I have followed this custody case for more than a year. I am divorced and understand how volatile these battles can be. Been there, done that. I also consider myself to be a champion for children's rights, which the Brazilian family seemed to ignore in this case.
Bianchi could have worked out a shared custody agreement when she decided she no longer wanted to be married to Goldman. Instead, she ignored his rights and her child's right to have a relationship with his natural father. But Goldman did not give up; he did not walk away from his son. Instead fought a valiant battle to regain custody of Sean.
In the end, it took pressure from the American government for David Goldman to get his son Sean, an American citizen, back on U. S. soil. President Barak Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressured the Brazilian government to honor international custody laws and finally, after a long-fought battle, Goldman and Sean were reunited on Christmas Eve.
The lesson from Goldman's experience is that our government needs to be proactive about international child custody agreements. Sean is not the only American child (and U. S. citizen) kidnapped by a parent and taken to another country. Sadly, once a child is out of the country, it is very difficult to enforce international laws. Our politicians need to be cognizant of this issue especially when trade agreements are being considered. Personally, I have made a commitment to never travel to Brazil - this country does not deserve my American tourist dollars if it is not willing to honor international law.
Both Abdulmutalla and Goldman have demonstrated what it means to be a father and parent, and set the example for other parents - I salute them.