zaterdag, juni 20, 2009

347. Vaderdag 2009 - Father's Day 2009 - Policy statement of USA president Barack Obama on fatherhood


President Obama Speaks About Fatherhood

Source: The White House on YouTube – June 19, 2009 (public domain)

On the eve of Father's Day weekend, President Obama gives remarks at a White House Town Hall on the topic of fatherhood.

President Obama Discusses the Importance of Fathers

Source: The White House on YouTube – June 21, 2009 (public domain)

President Obama and his guest at the White House, Chief Petty Officer John Lehnen (2009 Military Fatherhood Award recipient), discuss the vital role fathers play in our nation's communities and families.

President Obama Launches National Conversation On Importance of Fatherhood and Personal Responsibility

Source: The White House - Press Office - The Briefing Room - Office of the Press Secretary - For Immediate Release - June 19, 2009

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Content

1. President Obama Launches National Conversation On Importance of Fatherhood and Personal Responsibility (The White House - Press Office - The Briefing Room - Office of the Press Secretary - June 19, 2009)

2. The White House on Family Policy

3. Video: President Obama Speaks About Fatherhood (The White House on YouTube – June 19, 2009)

4. Video: President Obama Discusses the Importance of Fathers (The White House on YouTube – June 21, 2009)

5. Video: President Obama Speaks About Fatherhood (The White House on YouTube – June 19, 2009)

6. A Town Hall on Fatherhood (The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Katherine Brandon – Friday, June 19, 2009)

7. Video: The President Hosts a Young Mens BBQ to Celebrate Fatherhood (The White House on YouTube - June 19, 2009)

8. Video: President Obama Grilling with Bobby Flay (YouTube – June 19, 2009)

9. Remarks by the president at fatherhood Town Hall (The White House – The Briefing Room - Press Office - East Room - Office of the Press Secretary - June 19, 2009)

10. Video: President Obama Speaks About Fatherhood (The White House on YouTube – June 19, 2009)

11. Fathers Around Town (The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Jesse Lee MON, JUNE 22, 2009)

12. Fathers Out on the Town (The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Trenton Arthur Monday, June 22, 2009)

13. Responsible Fatherhood (The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Macon Phillips SUN, June 21, 2009)

14. Barack Obama on Fatherhood (Parade.com, 06/21/2009)

14a. When The White House Calls (Parade.com - By Janice Kaplan - June 18, 2009)

14b. Barack Obama: 'We Need Fathers To Step Up' (Parade.com - by President Barack Obama - 06/21/2009)

14c. Barack Obama on Fatherhood (Parade.com, 06/21/2009)

15. Letter of Barack Obama to his children on his inauguration: 'What I Want for You — and Every Child in America' (Parade.com - By President-elect Barack Obama - 01/18/2009)

16. Video: Father’s Day 2009 - President Obama Discusses the Importance of Fathers (The White House on YouTube – June 21, 2009)

17. Video: President Obama Father's Day Message 2009 at the Department of Health and Human Services (YouTube - 20 juni 2009)

18. Video: Barack Obama's Speech on Father’s Day 2008 (YouTube - 15 juni 2008)

19. Video: Obama; "Fathers are AWOL". White Vote Pandering? (YouTube - 15 juni 2008)

20. Video: Barack Obama Father’s Day 2007 Podcast: On Fatherhood (YouTube - 17 juni 2007)

President stresses responsible fathers are vital to healthy families and strong communities

WASHINGTON – Today, President Obama kicked off a national conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility with events across the Washington area and activities at the White House. Well-known fathers and everyday dads from across the country joined the President to discuss what fathers are doing to strengthen themselves, their families and their communities.

This conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility comes during the 100th anniversary of the day dedicated to dads, and President Obama is using the occasion to stress the importance of fathers in supporting families and sustaining communities throughout the nation.

On this day, President Obama and a group of very special fathers and mentors visited non-profit organizations throughout the Washington DC area dedicated to mentoring and supporting young men. The group then returned to The White House for a town hall meeting on fatherhood featuring five outstanding fathers and their incredible life stories. The afternoon culminated with a mentoring session with the visiting fathers and more than 120 young people from the DC area.

As someone who grew up in a home without his father, President Obama has served as a strong voice on the issue of fatherhood and personal responsibility. The issue of absent fathers is one that continues to challenge the country. This occasion highlights fathers from all walks of life who have faced challenges and overcome obstacles large and small to do what is right for their families.

"We all know the difference that responsible, committed fathers like these guys can make in the life of a child. Fathers are our first teachers and coaches. They’re our mentors and role models. They set examples of success and push us to succeed ourselves – encouraging us when we’re struggling; loving us even when we disappoint them; standing by us when no one else will," President Obama said during the town hall meeting.

"And when fathers are absent – when they abandon their responsibility to their kids – we know the damage that does to our families. Children who grow up without a father are more likely to drop out of school and wind up in prison. They’re more likely to have substance abuse problems, run away from home, and become teenage parents themselves."

President Obama also issued a Father’s Day proclamation honoring the work of strong, committed fathers and also taped a public service announcement for the Ad Council.

The White House is preparing to continue these conversations with a series of regional town hall forums throughout the summer and fall on the importance of fatherhood in communities across the nation. The goal of this effort is to find and emphasize what works: what dads, organizations and communities across the country are doing to address these challenges, and how we can work together to strengthen their efforts.

The White House on Family Policy

Source: The White House, 21 June 2009

Progress

Ten days after taking office, the President established a White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families, led by Vice President Biden. The Task Force is focused on raising the living standards of middle-class, working families across America.

The President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided needed support to families enduring difficult times.

  • The Act protects health coverage for 7 million Americans who lose their jobs through a 65 percent COBRA subsidy to make coverage affordable.
  • The Act also boosts family incomes by expanding the Child Tax Credit to cover an additional 10 million children in working families and creating a new Make Work Pay tax credit.
  • To help working mothers and fathers obtain quality child care, the Act includes an additional $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, $1 billion for Head Start, and $1.1 billion for Early Head Start.
  • To fight hunger, the Act includes a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, as well as funding for food banks and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • The Act increases the Weatherization Assistance Program by $5 billion to help low income families save on their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.
  • The Act increases job training funds for those who need them most, with $3.95 billion in additional funding for the Workforce Investment system, which will support green job training, summer jobs for young people, and other opportunities.
  • The Act provides increased income support, including an increase of $25 per week for Unemployment Insurance recipients and incentives for states to expand unemployment insurance eligibility, as well as an extra $250 payment to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries and new resources for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Guiding Principles

A strong nation is made up of strong families. Every family deserves the chance that so many of our parents and grandparents had – to make a better future for themselves and their children. Strong families will always be front and center of President Obama’s agenda.

Support Working Families

President Obama is committed to creating jobs and economic opportunities for families across America. And he is restoring fairness to the tax code and increasing child care so that working families have the support they need.

Reform Health Care

President Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass comprehensive health reform in his first year in order to control rising health care costs, guarantee choice of doctors, and assure high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

Invest in Education

President Obama is committed to providing every child access to a complete and competitive education, from cradle through career. First, the President supports a seamless and comprehensive set of services and support for our youngest children, from birth through age 5. Next, President Obama will reform and invest in K-12 education so that America’s public schools deliver a 21st Century education that prepares all children for success in the new global workplace. Finally, President Obama is committed to ensuring that America will regain its lost ground and have the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020.

Promote Work-family Balance

Millions of women and men face the challenge of trying to balance the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families. Too often, caring for a child or an aging parent puts a strain on a career or even leads to job loss. President Obama believes we need flexible work policies, such as paid sick leave, so that working women and men do not have to choose between their jobs and meeting the needs of their families.

Strengthen Families

President Obama was raised by a single parent and knows the difficulties that young people face when their fathers are absent. He is committed to responsible fatherhood, by supporting fathers who stand by their families and encouraging young men to work towards good jobs in promising career pathways. The President has also proposed an historic investment in providing home visits to low-income, first-time parents by trained professionals. The President and First Lady are also committed to ensuring that children have nutritious meals to eat at home and at school, so that they grow up healthy and strong.

RELATED BLOG POSTS

FROM THE PRESS OFFICE

President Obama Speaks About Fatherhood

Source: The White House on YouTube – June 19, 2009 (public domain)

On the eve of Father's Day weekend, President Obama gives remarks at a White House Town Hall on the topic of fatherhood.

A Town Hall on Fatherhood

Source:The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Katherine Brandon – Friday, June 19, 2009 AT 7:39 PM

This morning the President hosted a Young Mens Barbeque at the White House for students from local schools to discuss the importance of fatherhood and taking personal responsibility:

The President Hosts a Young Mens BBQ to Celebrate Fatherhood

Source: The White House on YouTube - June 19, 2009. (Public Domain)

The President hosts a Young Mens Barbeque at the White House for students from local schools to discuss the importance of fatherhood and taking personal responsibility. He is joined by well-known fathers from across the country, as well as everyday fathers who have successfully managed to fulfill their obligations. All of these men serve as exemplary examples of the spirit of fatherhood, and can serve as examples for these young men and men across the country.

The President kicked off a national conversation about the importance of fatherhood today at a White House town hall meeting afterwards. The President was joined in the discussion by well-known fathers from across the country, national and community organizations, young students, as well as five outstanding fathers from diverse backgrounds. These men shared their stories of their commitment to fatherhood and personal responsibility, covering everything from the struggles of balancing work and family to the importance of family dinners.

Following their stories, the President discussed the vital role of fathers in their families and their communities. He said he hopes this conversation will spark a national dialogue about fatherhood in America, which will inspire participants to fulfill their obligations and become positive role models in their own communities.

The message was clear – fathers can make a world of difference in the lives of our children. The President explained that while government can do a lot to help people, it simply cannot take the place of a father in a child’s life:

And when fathers are absent -- when they abandon their responsibilities to their children -- we know the damage that that does to our families. Some of you know the statistics: Children who grow up without fathers are more likely to drop out of school and wind up in prison. They’re more likely to have substance abuse problems, run away from home, and become teenage parents themselves.

And I say this as someone who grew up without a father in my own life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it's because of them that I'm able to stand here today. But despite all their extraordinary love and attention, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel my father's absence. That's something that leaves a hole in a child’s heart that a government can't fill.

That’s why it is time for all men to step up and be responsible fathers. The President went on to explain that while you don’t have to be a perfect father, you always need to try. He emphasized that sometimes the smallest moments are the most important. He discussed how his father gave him his first basketball and took him to his first jazz concert. Although his father was not a large part of his life, these little moments had a lasting impact. The President said his own father’s absence helped teach him to take responsibility and be a better father himself:

If we want our children to succeed in life, we need fathers to step up. We need fathers to understand that their work doesn’t end with conception -- that what truly makes a man a father is the ability to raise a child and invest in that child.

We need fathers to be involved in their kids’ lives not just when it’s easy -- not just during the afternoons in the park or at the zoo, when it’s all fun and games -- but when it’s hard, when young people are struggling, and there aren’t any quick fixes or easy answers, and that's when young people need compassion and patience, as well as a little bit of tough love.

Now, this is a challenge even in good times. And it can be especially tough during times like these, when parents have a lot on their minds -- they're worrying about keeping their jobs, or keeping their homes or their health care, paying their bills, trying to give their children the same opportunities that they had. And so it's understandable that parents get concerned, some fathers who feel they can't support their families, get distracted. And even those who are more fortunate may be physically present, but emotionally absent.

I know that some of the young men who are here today might have their own concerns one day about being a dad. Some of you might be worried that if you didn’t have a father, then you don't know how to be one when your turn comes. Some of you might even use that as an excuse, and say, "Well, if my dad wasn’t around, why should I be?"

Let’s be clear: Just because your own father wasn’t there for you, that’s not an excuse for you to be absent also -- it’s all the more reason for you to be present. There’s no rule that says that you have to repeat your father’s mistakes. Just the opposite -- you have an obligation to break the cycle and to learn from those mistakes, and to rise up where your own fathers fell short and to do better than they did with your own children.

That’s what I’ve tried to do in my life. When my daughters were born, I made a pledge to them, and to myself, that I would do everything I could to give them some things I didn’t have. And I decided that if I could be one thing in life, it would be to be a good father.

The White House plans on continuing this conversation in a series of regional town halls on the importance of fatherhood and personal responsibility. The goal is to find and emphasize what works to address these challenges, and how we can work together to strengthen our efforts as families, communities, and as a nation.

President Obama Grilling with Bobby Flay

Source: The White House on YouTubeJune 19, 2009. (public domain)

Chef Bobby Flay advises the President not to take a peek before flipping his steak at the White House Young Mens Barbeque on June 19, 2009. (public domain)

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT FATHERHOOD TOWN HALL

Source: The White House – The Briefing Room - Press Office - East Room - Office of the Press Secretary - For Immediate Release - June 19, 2009 - 3:34 P.M. EDT

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President Obama Speaks About Fatherhood

Source: The White House on YouTube – June 19, 2009 (public domain)

On the eve of Father's Day weekend, President Obama gives remarks at a White House Town Hall on the topic of fatherhood.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. And let me, first of all, thank John and Joe and Juan Carlos and Etan and Mike for sharing their remarkable stories with us. And let me thank Mike Strautmanis for helping to guide us through this -- where did Mike go? There he is, over there.

A couple other people that I want to acknowledge -- first of all, our terrific Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is here in the house. (Applause.) A dear friend of mine, former colleague in the Senate, Senator Evan Bayh is here. (Applause.) Chicago's own, Congressman Danny Davis, from the West Side. Where's Danny? He was here a second ago. Give him a round of applause anyway. (Applause.)

And I want to thank kids from "Life Pieces to Master Pieces," and Foundry United Methodist Church. Thank you very much for your participation. (Applause.) I want to thank members of the Faith-Based Advisory Council's Subcommittee on Fatherhood that has helped us to organize these events today.

Good afternoon, everybody. It is wonderful to see you. I see some familiar faces in the house. Rev, how are you doing? It is great to have all of you here today as we gear up to celebrate Father’s Day and to recognize the vital role that fathers play in our communities and obviously in our families.

This town hall marks the beginning of a national conversation that we hope to start about fatherhood and personal responsibility -- about how fathers across America are meeting the challenges in their families and communities, and what government can do to support those who are having a difficult time. Today, you’ve had a chance to hear from five of those fathers, men who are doing an outstanding job of meeting their obligations in their own lives.

We all know the difference that a responsible, committed father like those five gentlemen can make in the life of a child. Fathers are our first teachers and coaches. They’re our mentors and they're our role models. They set an example of success and they push us to succeed; encourage us when we’re struggling; and they love us even when we disappoint them, and they stand by us when nobody else will.

And when fathers are absent -- when they abandon their responsibilities to their children -- we know the damage that that does to our families. Some of you know the statistics: Children who grow up without fathers are more likely to drop out of school and wind up in prison. They’re more likely to have substance abuse problems, run away from home, and become teenage parents themselves.

And I say this as someone who grew up without a father in my own life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it's because of them that I'm able to stand here today. But despite all their extraordinary love and attention, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel my father's absence. That's something that leaves a hole in a child’s heart that a government can't fill.

Our government can build the best schools with the best teachers on Earth, but we still need fathers to ensure that the kids are coming home and doing their homework, and having a book instead of the TV remote every once in a while. Government can put more cops on the streets, but only fathers can make sure that those kids aren’t on the streets in the first place. Government can create good jobs, but we need fathers to train for these jobs and hold down these jobs and provide for their families.

If we want our children to succeed in life, we need fathers to step up. We need fathers to understand that their work doesn’t end with conception -- that what truly makes a man a father is the ability to raise a child and invest in that child.

We need fathers to be involved in their kids’ lives not just when it’s easy -- not just during the afternoons in the park or at the zoo, when it’s all fun and games -- but when it’s hard, when young people are struggling, and there aren’t any quick fixes or easy answers, and that's when young people need compassion and patience, as well as a little bit of tough love.

Now, this is a challenge even in good times. And it can be especially tough during times like these, when parents have a lot on their minds -- they're worrying about keeping their jobs, or keeping their homes or their health care, paying their bills, trying to give their children the same opportunities that they had. And so it's understandable that parents get concerned, some fathers who feel they can't support their families, get distracted. And even those who are more fortunate may be physically present, but emotionally absent.

I know that some of the young men who are here today might have their own concerns one day about being a dad. Some of you might be worried that if you didn’t have a father, then you don't know how to be one when your turn comes. Some of you might even use that as an excuse, and say, "Well, if my dad wasn’t around, why should I be?"

Let’s be clear: Just because your own father wasn’t there for you, that’s not an excuse for you to be absent also -- it’s all the more reason for you to be present. There’s no rule that says that you have to repeat your father’s mistakes. Just the opposite -- you have an obligation to break the cycle and to learn from those mistakes, and to rise up where your own fathers fell short and to do better than they did with your own children.

That’s what I’ve tried to do in my life. When my daughters were born, I made a pledge to them, and to myself, that I would do everything I could to give them some things I didn’t have. And I decided that if I could be one thing in life, it would be to be a good father.

I haven’t always known exactly how to do that. I’ve made my share of mistakes; I've had to ask a lot of questions. But I've also learned from men that I admire. And one good example is Michelle’s father, Frasier Robinson, who was a shining example of loving, responsible fatherhood. Here is a man who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was 30 years old, but he still got up every day, went to a blue-collar job. By the time I knew him he was using two crutches to get around, but he always was able to get to every dance recital, every ballgame of Michelle's brother. He was there constantly, and helped to shape extraordinary success for his children.

And that’s the standard that I strive for, though I don’t always meet it. And as I’ve said before, I've made mistakes as a parent, and I'm sure I will make plenty more. There have been days when the demands of work have taken me from my duties as a father and I’ve missed some moments in my daughters’ lives that I’ll never get back. So I’ve been far from perfect.

But in the end, it’s not about being perfect. It’s not always about succeeding; but it’s about always trying. And that's something everybody can do. It’s about showing up and sticking with it; and going back at it when you mess up; and letting your kids know -- not just with words, but with deeds -- that you love them and that you're always -- they're always your first priority.

And we need dads -- but also men who aren’t dads -- to make this kind of commitment not just in their own homes to their own families, but to the many young people out there who aren’t lucky enough to have responsible adults in their lives. We need committed, compassionate men to serve as mentors and tutors, and big brothers and foster parents. Even if it’s just for a couple hours a week of shooting hoops, or helping with homework, or just talking about what’s going on in that young person's life. Even the smallest moments can end up having an enormous impact, a lasting impact on a child’s life.

So I am grateful to many of the organizations that are here, that are working on these issues. Some are faith-based; some are not. Some are government funded; some are privately funded. But all of you have those same commitments to making sure that we are lifting up the importance of fatherhood in our communities.

This is not the end, this is the beginning, of what I hope is going to be a national dialogue. And we're going to have regional town hall meetings, as Mike may have mentioned, to make sure that participants all across the country are starting to have that positive effect in their communities.

And I especially want to thank the young people who are here today, because you're the ones who are going to have to carry -- (applause) -- this forward.

So with that -- I know we've already had some discussion, and what I want to do is to see if we can expand the conversation. We should have some microphones in the audience so that everybody can be heard. Am I correct? Mike, are you going to be like Oprah?

MR. STRAUTMANIS: I'm not going to be like Oprah. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. So what I want to do is just call on some folks. They can ask a question. They can share a story. Organizations that are doing great work on fatherhood, please tell us a little bit about the work that you are doing. And I want to especially hear from some of the young people who somehow ended up sitting in the back. (Laughter.) I don't know how that happened. I'm going to start with this young man right here.

Go ahead. Introduce yourself. Stand up, please.

Q Yes. My name is Roland Warren. I'm president of an organization called National Fatherhood Initiative. And first, just thank you for what you're doing on this issue. And a lot of folks have been sort of toiling on this issue for a number of years, and to have you come forward and step up and make this a national priority is really important.

And one of the things I just want to say to you, that your message, in terms of the fact that even though you've had obviously tremendous success without your dad, the fact that you really needed him and that kids have a hole in their souls essentially in the shape of their dad I think is pretty important, because we really need to focus on that issue; that we got to change the legacy and help our kids pass on the legacy -- have our dads pass on a different legacy than maybe they inherited.

I grew up without my dad, as well, and went to Princeton and things of that nature, but still needed him. That's one of the reasons I do the work that I do. So I really am delighted that you're doing the great work that you're doing around this issue.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Yes, I really want to emphasize this point about how just small moments and gestures can make a huge difference. A lot of folks know I love playing basketball. But it was my father who gave me my first basketball. Even though he wasn't a part of my life, in the few weeks that I was with him, he gave me a basketball.

A lot of folks know I love jazz. It turns out he took me to my first jazz concert. I didn't remember this until later on in life, but just that imprint is powerful. And imagine if that's sustained every day. And especially, young men, when they hit the teenage years, to have somebody there who is there to steady them and to provide them with some guidance, that makes all the difference in the world.

And again, this is not to take away from the heroic work that moms are doing. It's to emphasize moms need some help -- because if you're a single mom like mine was, and maybe they're going to school or working -- the pressures are enormous. And having somebody else there who's able to carry on that child-rearing responsibility is absolutely critical.

Anybody else? Let me get one of these young people here. Go ahead.

Q Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Larry Holmes. I attend St. Albans School for Boys. And I would like to ask you a question.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go ahead.

Q Traveling from state to state, country to country, being the President, which one is funner -- being a father or being a President? (Laughter and applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, well -- well, I mean this: Nothing is more fun than being a father. Now, my kids aren't teenagers yet so I don't know -- (laughter) -- I don't know whether that will maintain itself. (Laughter.) But right now the greatest joy I get is just hanging out with the girls and talking to them and watching them grow and succeed.

Probably the most fun that I've had since I've been President was actually at a parent-teachers conference where the teachers were bragging on my children. (Laughter.) And I just sat there and I just basked in the glory of -- (laughter.) And now nothing is more important than that. And I think a lot of fathers can relate to that.

But here's the important point, is that, with as many responsibilities as I have -- and I've got a huge support structure and staff and whatnot -- it turns out that you can still carve out time to make sure that you're having a conversation with your kid.

And what it does mean is, is that fathers sometimes have to give up stuff that they'd like to do instead, like just sit there and watch Sportscenter. (Laughter.) And I know we got D. Wade here -- I like watching the highlights -- but sometimes instead of watching the third, fourth -- (laughter) -- fifth time Sportscenter, I just watch it once -- (laughter) -- so that I can then spend time with the girls -- because they don't like watching basketball that much. But being President is pretty fun, too, no doubt about it.

All right. Great question. Next. Yes, sir -- right here.

Q Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Here, you got a microphone.

Q Hi, Mr. President. My name is Chris Maples. I founded an organization in Indianapolis called Dads, Inc. -- four years ago today, actually. And I hope that these dialogues continue to let everybody know that this isn't a rich or poor, a North or South, a black or white; this is -- this affects everybody from the upper class to the lower class. And that's who we work with, that broad range. And over these four years, I've heard dramatic stories of -- just so appreciative that we have a service in Indianapolis for all fathers, and that everybody is appreciative of that. And I hope we can keep that up on a national level, too.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think this is really important to emphasize -- 23 percent of young people are growing up without fathers. Now, in the African American community, it's close to 50 percent, maybe a little over, depending on the statistics that you look at. So there is a real crisis going on the African American community on this issue, but it is a more pervasive issue.

And I just went to a wonderful organization called Year Up that has young people who are getting trained after high school, most of them, on specific job-training skills, computer skills, but also how to conduct themselves in an office and write an email, et cetera. And it was wonderful talking to these young people. But one of the things I said specifically to the young men is that you can't use anything as an excuse not to be involved with your children. Because kids -- they won't judge you based on whether you're wealthy or poor. They will judge you if you are abusive to their mother. They will judge you in terms of you not showing up when they need you. That's what makes a difference.

And kids will respect their fathers if their fathers are showing kindness and are modeling -- that they're working hard and trying to do what's right for their families. And kids will understand that sometimes families fall on hard times. They get that. Joe Biden is here -- and, Joe, actually, I want to talk to you, because you had a terrific relationship with your dad, but there was a time where your dad fell on some hard times, and yet you still talk about him all the time as the most important guiding role model in your life.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. President, I think it's great what you're doing, by the way. This is a big deal. Folks, you know, the President said sometimes fathers make mistakes, and I've made my share. But one thing my father told me -- there's a mistake a father should never make, and that is communicating to his child there's anything other than total unconditional love. If there's total unconditional love -- that includes discipline -- but if there's total unconditional love, it doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, whether or not you're a real smart dad or you're not such a smart dad, whether you're handsome or you're not so -- it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Kids need love.

And as a single parent, Mr. President -- I did that for a while, having two sons, as Evan knows. And what I can say to you is -- my mom has an expression. He's always kidding me, I'm always saying my mom and dad's expressions. But my mom has an expression. And she said -- I could hear her when she was a kid -- when I was a kid, saying it to her peers. She said, "Be careful how you treat your children, you may need them some day." (Laughter.)

And I want to tell you, the President knows my sons and my daughter. It doesn't change -- the happiest thing in the world is being a father. This day my 40-year-old son is attorney general of the state of Delaware. The President sees it in my 39-year-old son and my 27-year-old daughter. If my son, Attorney General, Captain Biden walked in the door from Iraq today, the first thing he'd do is walk up and give me a kiss. I mean it. And this is not -- a kid who knows how to handle himself.

But the point is it gives me more joy, and I think it gives every father in this room more joy than any other thing that happens in your life, whether your son or daughter does that.

So, Mr. President, you're a great President. You're a great dad. And you're really good to be doing this. It's a big deal. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) All right. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) All right. Anybody back here want to comment on some of the things they heard or saw? Go ahead.

Q I'd like to ask you a question, Mr. President. At one point you had to decide you wanted to run for President, with two young daughters. Can you share with us how you had to wrestle with that decision?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a great question and I think I've said this publicly before -- the first question, the threshold question that I had to ask in conjunction with Michelle -- because this was a joint decision -- was could our family handle it? And frankly, if it hadn't been for Michelle's extraordinary strength and commitment, I could not have done it and would not have done it. And she was able to handle, for big chunks of time, being like a single mom.

Now, I want to emphasize we are luckier than most; we've got more resources than most. And so I don't want to diminish how tough it is if you're working two shifts, you're coming home beat, and then suddenly you're also expected to help on the homework and do all these things. It's a big challenge for a lot of families. And we had more resources than most, but it was still a very difficult decision.

Frankly, I don't think we would have made the same decision if our kids were a little older. Part of the reason it was okay was because when I started running, Sasha was five, Malia was eight, and they were still in Chicago; they had my mother-in-law, and they had a whole network and a community and a family that could help and support them. And so as a consequence we figured out they would thrive.

The person who suffered the most was me, because I would be calling from God knows where and they'd be having fun and laughing and -- (laughing) -- and kids don't talk on the phone that well. (Laughter.) So I'd be, "Sasha, how was your day?" "Fine." (Laughter.) "What did you do?" "Nothing." (Laughter.) You guys have had those conversations. (Laughter.)

And so there were times where just physically I wanted to just be with them, and just couldn't. And so it was the hardest part of deciding to run for President.

The best thing about being President, by the way, is having a home office, because that means that -- (applause) -- that means that I get home for dinner and -- even if I have to go back to work, and then that makes all the difference in the world.

So, okay. Ed, got one right behind you. No, no, got one -- right back.

Q I'm used to you throwing my questions away.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn't do that. Go ahead.

Q I'm kidding. Listen, I just wanted to thank you very much. We started an initiative with Al Dotson and a hundred black men called "Daddy's Promise," which really takes a look at fathers involving themselves in their daughters' lives, and you've been a great image for that. And what I just wanted to tell everybody is the service that you've given us, just with the image of you and your family and your daughters, has gone and made tenfold in terms of it being easier to tell men to involve themselves, because as we know, the media and the image is so powerful. And A, I'd like to thank you very much –

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that.

Q -- for that, and being upfront on that -- and encourage everyone to do so in your neighborhoods, because as much as we look to this man and others in the media, it is those of you who are there on an everyday basis. And when you see parents with children, it goes a long, long way. So we thank you for that.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. But I think you made the right point, Ed, which is it's one thing seeing people on TV; it's another thing seeing that young father down the street who's just like you, except he's holding his baby in his arms, or taking that toddler to the park, or participating in the Little League. That's where young people get sort of their images, what it means to be a man, more than they do from whatever is on the screen. But I very much appreciate what you said.

Okay, I'm going to call on a token mom here just so that she can comment on these things.

Q I'm Reverend Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner.

THE PRESIDENT: It's great to see you.

Q Good to see you. I want to say for women -- I'm a mother and a grandmother -- this is a day of celebration for us. (Applause.) We just felt our shoulders lifted. Not having had a father, but I -- thank you for Bill Cowher and Mr. McDaniels from Run DMC, coming over to Ballou. The only time you hear about Ballou High School is when someone is shot or killed. Today the kids asked us -- they said, "They're coming to see us?" So I want to thank you on their behalf, that you cared enough about children who are on the other side of the river.

And now, my question is, how do we keep lifting up the stories of the kid who's not in trouble, who goes past the drug dealers, who decides to stay in school, as opposed to all the -- we spend so much emphasis on what's not working. How do we talk about what is working?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I think you make a great point. First of all, I do want to thank all these wonderful men who took the time to go out and -- Coach Cowher, this is the first time that you've seen Redskins fans cheer for you -- (laughter) -- that doesn't happen that often -- but these extraordinary men for taking the time to do this. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)

But I think you're absolutely right, Reverend, that sometime we've got to lift up success instead of just remarking on failure, because -- the young men that I met at the trip that I took to Year Up, these were extraordinary young people. They were poised and they were polished and they were -- and these are all kids from the neighborhood, but they had -- somebody had reached out to show that they care.

And it turns out that young people are incredibly resilient. It doesn't take that much. All it takes is somebody to put a hand on them and say, "You know what? You're important. And I'm listening to you." And if it's the wrong person who's putting that hand on them, if it's the gang-banger that's putting that hand on them, then they'll respond to that. And if it's a person in the community who is working hard, they'll respond to that.

And so we do need to affirm positive behavior and not just condemn negative behavior, because a lot of times young people just -- they just need to be told that if you -- one of the neat things about this program that I was looking at was they had a whole code: The first thing that they trained young people on was how do you interact with others. So everybody that you met, they were shaking your hand and looking at you in the eye and they weren't mumbling. And there were certain words that they had banned from usage -- not just curse words, either. They were saying, you know, don't go around saying, "Shorty" and "What's up, G?" and -- because that's not professional. And all that was important to them, and they absorbed it very quickly. But it requires spending a little time and then lifting up some role models.

MR. STRAUTMANIS: Last question.

THE PRESIDENT: All right. This is always tough, the last-question thing. (Laughter.) I'm going to call on one of these young people again. Here you go. Go ahead. This young man right here, he had his hand up.

Q I was wondering –

THE PRESIDENT: What's your name?

Q I'm Nick, and I'm also from St. Albans.

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Nick. Yes, you're with this crew here.

Q And, Mr. President, I was wondering how you felt when you first became a father.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me tell you the story of me -- first of all, Malia was born on the Fourth of July. And every first father has this memory of you're waiting and you're waiting, and then suddenly Michelle woke me up at around 3:00- 4:00 a.m., and I was sleepy, and she says, "Hey, buster, I think this may be happening." And you jump out -- it was like a movie. I was jumping out of my bed and looking for my shoes and the bag.

And things went fairly smoothly. But the first time you see that child, and bringing her home, driving really slow -- (laughter) -- in that little car seat -- and then that night, knowing that there was this new life inside your house in a little bassinet, and remembering to check on them every five minutes to make sure they're still breathing -- (laughter) -- and then feeling them lying on your chest when you've fed them and they're falling asleep -- and you knew at that moment something had -- if you're not a father yet, people say and you don't believe, which is, at that moment, you realize you will do anything for that child. There's nothing you wouldn't do for them -- in a heartbeat.

And that bond between a parent and a child is something that is precious. It's sacred. And it's a true blessing.

And sometimes I think in the hustle of life you forget what a blessing that is, and that ultimately, after all this stuff is done, after Joe and I are retired and nobody knows our name -- (laughter) -- the one thing that we'll remember is -- are those moments when you were holding your kid, and watching them grow, and the first time they walked. And that's the stuff that will stay with you.

And that's why, if there's one last thing I want to communicate to those fathers who maybe haven't been involved in their child's life, it's to emphasize that this isn't an obligation. This is a privilege to be a father. (Applause.) And that's something that all of us should take on for themselves.

So, thank you, everybody, for participating. I appreciate you. Thank you. (Applause.)

END

Fathers Around Town

Source: The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Jesse Lee Monday, June 22, 9:38 AM EST

The Office of Public Engagement blog give us a little more backstory on the famous and exceptional fathers who came to the White House for the "Responsible Fatherhood" event on Friday.

Fathers Out on the Town

Source: The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Trenton Arthur Monday, June 22, 2009 AT 9:29 AM

"This isn’t an obligation. It’s a privilege, to be a father." So said President Obama on Friday at a town hall event in the East Room of the White House on Friday. Gathered together in the town hall were an astounding group of accomplished men: Tony Hawk, Motorola’s CEO Greg Brown, Law and Order’s B.D. Wong, and many others spoke to a group of children of all ages. Before taking part in the town hall these amazing father figures dispersed throughout DC in order to witness various programs helping youth around the city.

At Merritt Middle School Dwayne Wade and Alonzo Mourning arrived to be greeted by the Senior Apprentices at the Life Pieces to Master Pieces program. Life Pieces to Master Pieces or LPTM provides a mentoring and education program to children ages 3-21, providing role models, life lessons, and an art program to their participants, called apprentices. Wade and Mourning arrived to the clamorous singing and drumbeats of the junior apprentices in the program. The children were delighted to have the two basketball stars talk to them about the importance of the program in which they were participating, which features this year features 100% high school graduation rate among their senior apprentices.


(Photo credit Liz Norton, Stone Soup Films, June 19, 2009)

Meanwhile, across the city B.D. Wong and Dr. Steven Rosen were speaking at the Asian American LEAD. AALEAD is a local organization with a mission to help increase the opportunities and ability of low income Asian American children to become successful and self sufficient adults. Twenty to thirty students sat eagerly waiting to hear BD Wong speak about being an actor on Law & Order. Though many of the children were too young to have watched his show, they all listened intently as B.D. Wong shared his diverse perspective as a gay Asian actor. He spoke to the students about the importance of self esteem and being "true" to oneself. He also spoke about his unique experience as a father with his partner. At the end of the event, all the students jumped at the opportunity to take pictures with B.D. Wong and Dr. Rosen. One of the students even stopped Dr. Rosen on his way out and asked for his business card because he wants to be a physician when he grows up.

When the men returned from their day trip they met in the East Room to participate in a dialogue about their experiences as fathers. The Office of Public Engagement was prominently featured in the form of Mike Strautmanis who served at the MC throughout the introductions of the father figures. The President and Vice President entered the discussion and promptly came to a consensus that being a father was better than being President.

After the town hall the high school students had a chance to sit out on the South Lawn and talk one-on-one with these fathers. The students and fathers talked about politics, sports, and their life experiences. Acclaimed cook Bobby Flay gave lessons in grilling to the young men and the President.


(Photo credit Trenton Arthur , June 19, 2009)

Friday’s event kicked off the President’s national fatherhood initiative to highlight and advocate for responsible fatherhood. He honored successful programs around DC in celebration of all those men who serve as father figures to youth across the country.

Happy Father’s Day.

Michael Strautmanis

Source: The White House - Office of Public Engagement

Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement

Strautmanis practiced complex litigation and employment law in Chicago before joining the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Following this, he served as Counsel for Legislation for the American Association of Justice. Strautmanis served as Chief Counsel and Deputy Chief of Staff to then-Senator Obama in the United States Senate. He continued as Senior Counsel for Obama for America, where he played a leading role in political outreach as a member of the Congressional Relations team. Strautmanis received a B.S. from the University of Illinois, and a J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law.

Responsible Fatherhood

Source: The White House - Blog Post - Posted by Macon Phillips Sunday, June 21, 10:27 AM EST

On the 100th anniversary of Father's Day, the President writes a piece on fatherhood in Parade Magazine talking about his own life and highlighting the responsibilities all fathers must step up to:

In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.

That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.

On Friday the President hosted some well-known fathers and everyday dads from across the country to discuss what fathers are doing to strengthen themselves, their families and their communities. One of the guests at that event was Chief Quartermaster John Lehnen, who adds his thoughts to the President's in this video:

Father’s Day 2009 - President Obama Discusses the Importance of Fathers

Source: The White House on YouTube – June 21, 2009 (public domain)

President Obama and his guest at the White House, Chief Petty Officer John Lehnen (2009 Military Fatherhood Award recipient), discuss the vital role fathers play in our nation's communities and families.

Chief Lehnen is a devoted husband and father of four special needs children, and with over 10 years of service, he has shown extraordinary dedication to his family and country. That dedication has been honored with multiple awards including the Sailor of the Quarter and Navy-Corps Achievement and Commendation Medals and the 2009 Military Fatherhood Award from National Fatherhood Initiative. Chief Lehnen also cares deeply about his fellow sailors and their families, encouraging sailors to participate in the United Through Reading campaign and family readiness groups.

Watch or read the President's full remarks and conversation at that White House event.

FATHER'S DAY, 2009

- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Source: The White House - Press Office – The Briefing Room -Office of the Press Secretary - For Immediate Release - June 18, 2009

_____________________________________________________________

The journey of fatherhood provides unique and lasting joys. Cradling a baby in his arms, a father experiences the miracle of life and an unbreakable bond. Fathers imagine a world of possibilities awaiting their children and contemplate the privilege of helping them reach that expanse of opportunity. As kids grow and mature, they look to their dad for a special kind of love and support. Providing these necessities can bring great happiness.

Fatherhood also brings great responsibilities. Fathers have an obligation to help rear the children they bring into the world. Children deserve this care, and families need each father's active participation.

Fathers must help teach right from wrong and instill in their kids the values that sustain them for a lifetime. As they encounter new and challenging experiences, children need guidance and counsel. Fathers need to talk with their kids to help them through difficult times. Parents must also help their children make the right choices by serving as strong role models. Honest and hard-working fathers are an irreplaceable influence upon their children.

Communities must do more to counsel fathers. Family and friends, and faith-based and community organizations, can speak directly with men about the sacrifices and rewards of having a child. These groups can support men as they take on the great challenges of child-rearing. Through honest and open dialogue, more men can choose to become model parents and know the wonders of fatherhood.

On Father's Day, we pay tribute to the loving and caring fathers who are strengthening their families and country. We also honor those surrogate fathers who raise, mentor, or care for someone else's child. Thousands of young children benefit from the influence of great men, and we salute their willingness to give and continue giving. We also express special gratitude to fathers who serve in the United States Armed Forces for the sacrifices they and their families make every day. All of these individuals are making great contributions, and children across the country are better off for their care.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, in accordance with a joint resolution of the Congress approved April 24, 1972, as amended (36 U.S.C. 109), do hereby proclaim June 21, 2009, as Father's Day. I direct the appropriate officials of the Government to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on this day. I urge all Americans to express their love, respect, and admiration to their fathers, and I call upon all citizens to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

BARACK OBAMA

# # #

Barack Obama on Fatherhood

When The White House Calls

Source: Parade.comFirst take by Janice KaplanView Archive - Comments - June 18, 2009

When The White House Calls

by Janice Kaplan

We were in the midst of working on the June 21 issue of PARADE when we got the call from the White House.

President Obama had enjoyed such an extraordinary reaction to the last article he wrote for PARADE that he’d like to do another. Were we interested?

Well, yes, as it happened. We were.

The previous Obama cover story had run two days before the Inauguration, when the soon-to-be-president wrote a letter to his daughters, describing what he hoped for them and all the children of America. Nice that the president heard cheers for his words, because we, too, got an overwhelming response. I personally received e-mails from readers in China, Europe, and Central America, praising the president and thanking us for the story. (With Parade.com, our readership has no boundaries). Fathers groups across the country urged parents to write similar letters to their own children.

Barack Obama: 'We Need Fathers To Step Up'

So the follow-up seemed obvious. Could President Obama write this time on what being a dad means to him?

The White House liked the idea, and we decided to rip up our June 21 Father’s Day issue and make room for the president. Oh, and by the way, we’d need the article in two days.

No problem.

From the last article he wrote, I knew President Obama doesn’t require much editing. His tone is distinctly his own, and he has the same cadence on paper that he does when he speaks. As you read his words, you can clearly hear his voice.

But as we waited for the piece, I worried. If the article were simply a gentle paean to the joys of fatherhood, it might not be worth the cover. Then the story came in, and all doubts vanished. The president indeed starts off with a sweet tribute to his own daughters. But he goes on to describe what it means when children don’t have fathers. He warns a generation of young men not to be careless about parenthood, but to take responsibility for the children they create. The article has warmth, but also seriousness. As with much that he does, the president does not waste an opportunity to teach—and to remind us how we can be better.

See Family Photos of Obama With His Daughters

The editing didn’t take long. I changed two words for grammatical reasons and added a comma or two.

The White House photographer provided a behind-the-scenes photo of the president with his daughters for the cover. To accompany the story inside, he offered a picture of the president cheering like any other dad at one of Sasha’s soccer games.

I hope President Obama and his daughters have a nice Father’s Day this Sunday. And if the president’s words in PARADE have the impact they should, perhaps many children will have better Father’s Days to come.

Barack Obama: 'We Need Fathers To Step Up'

Source: Parade.com - by President Barack Obama - published: 06/21/2009


Related Features

  1. Barack Obama: 'We Need Fathers To Step Up'
  2. When The White House Calls
  3. Barack Obama on Fatherhood

Two days before the inauguration, PARADE published a letter from Barack Obama to his daughters about what he hoped for them and all the children of America. The letter attracted international attention. On this Father's Day, we asked the President to reflect on what fatherhood means to him.

[Get the story behind the story from PARADE Editor Janice Kaplan.]

As the father of two young girls who have shown such poise, humor, and patience in the unconventional life into which they have been thrust, I mark this Father’s Day—our first in the White House—with a deep sense of gratitude. One of the greatest benefits of being President is that I now live right above the office. I see my girls off to school nearly every morning and have dinner with them nearly every night. It is a welcome change after so many years out on the campaign trail and commuting between Chicago and Capitol Hill.

But I observe this Father’s Day not just as a father grateful to be present in my daughters’ lives but also as a son who grew up without a father in my own life. My father left my family when I was 2 years old, and I knew him mainly from the letters he wrote and the stories my family told. And while I was lucky to have two wonderful grandparents who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me, I still felt the weight of his absence throughout my childhood.

As an adult, working as a community organizer and later as a legislator, I would often walk through the streets of Chicago’s South Side and see boys marked by that same absence—boys without supervision or direction or anyone to help them as they struggled to grow into men. I identified with their frustration and disengagement—with their sense of having been let down.

In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.

That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.

See family photos of Obama
and his daughters

As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well—but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.

And it’s not enough to just be physically present. Too often, especially during tough economic times like these, we are emotionally absent: distracted, consumed by what’s happening in our own lives, worried about keeping our jobs and paying our bills, unsure if we’ll be able to give our kids the same opportunities we had.

Our children can tell. They know when we’re not fully there. And that disengagement sends a clear message—whether we mean it or not—about where among our priorities they fall.

So we need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what’s going on in their lives.

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.

We need to realize that we are our children’s first and best teachers. When we are selfish or inconsiderate, when we mistreat our wives or girlfriends, when we cut corners or fail to control our tempers, our children learn from that—and it’s no surprise when we see those behaviors in our schools or on our streets.

But it also works the other way around. When we work hard, treat others with respect, spend within our means, and contribute to our communities, those are the lessons our children learn. And that is what so many fathers are doing every day—coaching soccer and Little League, going to those school assemblies and parent-teacher conferences, scrimping and saving and working that extra shift so their kids can go to college. They are fulfilling their most fundamental duty as fathers: to show their children, by example, the kind of people they want them to become.

It is rarely easy. There are plenty of days of struggle and heartache when, despite our best efforts, we fail to live up to our responsibilities. I know I have been an imperfect father. I know I have made mistakes. I have lost count of all the times, over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood. There were many days out on the campaign trail when I felt like my family was a million miles away, and I knew I was missing moments of my daughters’ lives that I’d never get back. It is a loss I will never fully accept.

But on this Father’s Day, I think back to the day I drove Michelle and a newborn Malia home from the hospital nearly 11 years ago—crawling along, miles under the speed limit, feeling the weight of my daughter’s future resting in my hands. I think about the pledge I made to her that day: that I would give her what I never had—that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father. I knew that day that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless she had every opportunity in hers. And I knew I had an obligation, as we all do, to help create those opportunities and leave a better world for her and all our children.

On this Father’s Day, I am recommitting myself to that work, to those duties that all parents share: to build a foundation for our children’s dreams, to give them the love and support they need to fulfill them, and to stick with them the whole way through, no matter what doubts we may feel or difficulties we may face. That is my prayer for all of us on this Father’s Day, and that is my hope for this nation in the months and years ahead.

See family photos of Obama and his daughters at the White House

PARADE Editor Janice Kaplan: When the White House Calls

Keyword Search:President Barack Obamafathers dayfatherhoodparentingresponsibilitycommitmentfamily

Barack Obama on Fatherhood

Source: Parade.com, June 21, 2009

Support Role President Barack Obama cheers for his daughter Sasha's soccer team in a Georgetown park in May.

He writes: "As fathers, we need to be involved in our children's lives not just when it's convenient or easy, and not just when they're doing well—but when it's difficult and thankless, and they're struggling."

Obama at Home The President enjoys some family time at the White House.

"One of the greatest benefits of being President," he says, "is that I now live right above the office."

Arm in Arm - Obama strolls with Malia (left) and Sasha at the White House.

"I see my girls off to school nearly every morning and have dinner with them nearly every night," Obama writes. "It is a welcome change after so many years out on the campaign trail and commuting between Chicago and Capitol Hill."

Swing Time - The President gives the girls a push on a tire swing.

He says Malia and Sasha "have shown such poise, humor, and patience in the unconventional life into which they have been thrust."

Letter of Barack Obama to his children on his inauguration:

'What I Want for You — and Every Child in America'

Source: Parade.com - By President-elect Barack Obama - published: 01/18/2009

Related Features

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Photo By Kwaku Alston / Corbis

Barack and Michelle Obama with daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th President. On this historic occasion, PARADE asked the President, who is also a devoted family man, to get personal and tell us what he wants for his children. Here, he shares his letter to them.

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me—about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country—but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free—that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

Sasha (l) and Malia Obama at play in New Hampshire in 2007.

Bumper cars at the Iowa State Fair in August 2007.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better—and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much—although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

Inauguration Day is a time of hope and new beginnings. Read about the greatest inaugural moments »

Father’s Day 2009 - President Obama Discusses the Importance of Fathers

Source: The White House on YouTube – June 21, 2009 (public domain)

President Obama and his guest at the White House, Chief Petty Officer John Lehnen (2009 Military Fatherhood Award recipient), discuss the vital role fathers play in our nation's communities and families.

President Obama Father's Day Message 2009 at the Department of Health and Human Services

Source: The White House on YouTube -20 juni 2009

President Obama Father's Day Message The Department of Health and Human Services Teams Up With The White House and the Ad Council To Launch New Fatherhood Public Service Campaign

Barack Obama's Speech on Father’s Day 2008

Source: YouTube - 15 juni 2008

Barack addressed the congregation at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL on June 15, 2008.

Obama; "Fathers are AWOL". White Vote Pandering?

Source: YouTube - 15 juni 2008

Is Obama taking his lead from Bill Cosby? If so, then Barack Obama might also point out that Cosby has stated how he believes that some blacks use racism as a crutch to explain lack of economic progress. What a very well refined typical politician Obama is.

Obama talks tough on 'AWOL' fathers

By MIKE ALLEN | 6/15/08 2:08 PM EST

Talking tough on Father's Day, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) challenged African-American men on Sunday to play more of a role in raising their children and warned them that "responsibility doesn't just end at conception."

"Too many fathers are MIA. Too many fathers are AWOL," he told a huge African-American congregation in Chicago. "There's a hole in your heart if you don't have a male figure in the home that can guide you and lead you and set a good example for you."

"What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — any fool can have a child," he said, to applause. "That doesn't make you a father. It's the courage to raise a child that makes you a father."

Obama drew laughs when he talked about gyrating portrayals of him in the media: "That was when I wasn't black enough. Now I'm too black." Responding to cheers and applause, he added ruefully, "Y'all remember."

Obama said parents can't use lack of government resources as an "excuse" for not doing anything for their children: "As fathers and as parents, we've got to spend more time with them, and help them with their homework, and turn off the TV set once in a while, turn off the video game and the remote control and read a book to your child."

The point about the remote is one Obama often makes on the campaign trail, always to big applause.

Obama met this week with evangelical ministers, and the speech could help him reach out to family-oriented conservatives who remain unenthusiastic about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Obama's fatherhood speech was delivered at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, where the crowd overflowed from the 3,000-seat sanctuary into the banquet hall.

Obama's wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, also attended.

The senator declared that even many two-parent families can do a better job of preparing their children: "It's a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don't just sit in the house and watch 'SportsCenter' all weekend long."

Obama began by saying that too many fathers are "missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes," having "abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men."

"You and I know how true this is in the African-American community," he said. "We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community Reeling off a list of potential excuses, Obama acknowledged that cities also need more police, "fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them," more money for schools, better teachers, more after-school programs and more jobs and job training.

"But we also need families to raise our children," he said. "We need fathers to realize that responsibility doesn't just end at conception."

Turning to his own life story, Obama said he knows "what it means to have an absent father, although my circumstances weren't as tough as they are for many young people today."

"Even though my father left us when I was 2 years old, and I only knew him from the letters he wrote and the stories that my family told, I was luckier than most," he said. "I grew up in Hawaii, and had two wonderful grandparents from Kansas who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me — who worked with her to teach us about love and respect and the obligations we have to one another. ... So my own story is different in that way.

Barack Obama Father’s Day 2007 Podcast: On Fatherhood

Source: YouTube -17 juni 2007

Just in time for Father's Day - Barack Obama discusses his family and fatherhood issues.

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