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June 19th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Obama: 'We need fathers to step up'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/28/first.lady/art.obama.family.jpg]

President Barack Obama
For Parade Magazine

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.

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Filed under: President Barack Obama
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. michelle

    My husband is a full time daddy to our son and my daughter and he is a wonderful father. He is also a part time father to his 2 children from a past relationship, but because of the laws being what they are- fathers have no right to do or say anything in the best interest of their kids once they move out of that home. I think dads take a lot of hits from a lot of people whom have no real first hand knowledge of what they have to deal with and how limited they are by law, they only real right they have is to pay support- everything else is up in the air for them. The law is not fair to dads in this country unless you have loads of money !

    Michelle In DE

    June 21, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  2. Suzanne

    A father's presence is irreplaceable. Too many fathers remain absent from the upbringing of a child. If they only knew the impact of such an absence has on a human being – they might re-consider their actions. STEP UP DADS!

    June 21, 2009 at 8:48 am |
  3. Rebecca

    Amazing - all the comments. Fathers are needed to raise healthy families. Obama was lucky to have a grandfather who stepped up to the plate for two grandchildren. Being a single parent of three children, I can tell you that it is a hard road to do well. Coaches, teachers, pastors, family friends can help to lead the young men and women to maturity as adults. In Ohio, child support is part of the taxable income; it is never enough to raise kids. As a high school teacher of seniors, I can tell you in 32 years, I have never heard any student tell me "Mom is like Santa Claus" - it is always, "I can work my Dad best." I think that is due to the guilt felt by fathers who don't feel a part of life of their son/daughter. We need to work harder to keep marriages intact; marriage is like "going steady" in my day. Sexuality is a non-issue for most young ones– it just happens. No big deal ... as a teacher of Personal Relationships, I can tell you that my mission is to teach basic relationship tools/skills and abstinence for all, not just women.

    June 21, 2009 at 8:41 am |
  4. Larry

    What is the rate of absentee fathers of interracial marriages? Has interracial marriage reached the status of being 100% acceptable to both blacks and whites?

    June 21, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  5. teri

    I have been married and divorced twice. I have raised 4 children basically alone. The president is trying to win back character and values to this nation which has severly been abused. Women and men need to grow up and do whats right for their children. As for my circumstances I could of used more help from the community to help me send my kids to pre-school. I couldn;t do it because I had to work. Over 30 years ago when Reagan was President he cut off funding for welfare women. I got 11 dollars a month for food for myself and my 3 year old. I'm not going to say that men could really do more to help out with their offspring, it takes both parents to do it. Give your kids a good loving home and divorce later when they are old enough to realize some values in life and a feeling of confidence that they will learn that both parents commited to raise them with dignity but then going separate ways..They will respect you more.

    June 21, 2009 at 12:12 am |
  6. keith from OC

    Right on Ms Ramirez! In the great state of California a mother has more rights than the father. The courts along with the lawyers and mothers alienate the father. For some reason men are made out to be dodes, and the chief perpetrator in domestic violence. Nothing could be farther than the truth. It takes two to tango, and the use of DV, ( women have learned this trick to end a relationship and to label the father a unsuitable care taker); this label is then used to keep the father away, I believe to have him work longer hours just to pay for restitution of entering in to a commited relationship. And shame on the boys who cut and run they are a disgrace to the male gender. P.s. both my children came to live with me, the father, as teenagers and they both graduated from HS and are now in college

    June 20, 2009 at 11:45 pm |
  7. Jim,Calif

    We need Fathers to step up & do their jobs, Pastors to step up & do their jobs,Police to step up & do their jobs,Judges to step up & do their jobs,Legislators to step up & do their jobs, Governors to step up & do thier jobs, Congress to step up & do it's job, and Presidents to step up & do their jobs. To whom more is given more is required. Each shall have to stand and give an account to God for their obediance to God or man.
    Choose you this day whom you will serve.

    June 20, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  8. lance

    i have not see one response in defense of the child just how it effects them. just trying to justify the situation through blame.

    June 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  9. B.Greenfish

    President Obama, a father, any father, would be more than proud of ...Fathers everywhere salute you Sir...

    June 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Jim,

    Mr. President,
    Why did we not have these problems 100 years ago to the same extent we have them today? I hear your a Lawyer- so go look at the evidence.
    Wisdom from GrandFather- "Getting a Girl pregnant makes a man no more a Father than stepping into a Garage makes you a car. What is the difference between a man & a Car? It would be wise to know before you get underneath either one."

    June 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  11. Als

    Tell Wolf Blizzar that former Pres Bush and Clinton are under the goverment run health care plan etc. I am glad we have the internet because I get the real news stories thats not being covered.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  12. Kristen-University Park, PA

    Tom go read the bible again, Jesus last words were on the cross. Luke chapter 23.

    June 19, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  13. israel

    What ever the Dem. and the rep. come up with on health care they need to be the first ones in line siging up for it and stop useing the welfar health care they get now,all every body wants is the same health care they have. On Iran Obama is right let them handle ther own freedom.

    June 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  14. mary Frost

    One simple sentence–President Obama–find a way to make fathers pay for their children. If you can't think of a way, I have a solution–make them pay for them–not taxpayers.

    June 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  15. Isabel, Brazil

    Happy Father's Day to all fathers of America.

    June 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  16. Jacquelin Ramirez

    Another thing about the time issues, some of these mothers make it next to impossible to see the kids and then when the father gets them, they don't want to be there because they have heard so much negative talk about this person they don't want to come over. They feel "disloyal" to the mother when they have fun at dad's house. They don't want to make mom mad or hurt mom's feelings by having fun at dad's house. It's sad that this isn't a more public topic. Everyone knows about dead beat dads though, don't they? What about the fathers that have there rights, abilities, and roles stolen from them by the mother and the court?

    June 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  17. Jacquelin Ramirez

    This sounds all nice and fairy tale and I do agree with alot of it however; there is another side that is being completely ignored. I read articles like this and it makes really angry about the "other" side. I am a second wife, and a step-mother to two boys. I have watched my husband being taken to court several times, over child support, cost of living and whatever else the ex feels like taking him for; each time costing more money and less visitation. The courts go as far as counting hours to calculate more support, not caring in the slightest about our household, our debt load, entertainment for the boys at our home. We pay a large amount of child support and are still required to provide health care, and pay for half of everything the boys involved in, including day care and tuition. What mama wants, mama usually gets (out here in California anyway). What happens? Mama is getting a nice tax free support check each month has way more disposible income then we do and so naturally the boys want to be there more because mommy is fun and has more money, so then what happens, back to court, she gets more money and we get less visitation. When is Parental Alienation Syndrome going to be looked at? The governement has a deficit right? Tax child support! Watch the gap close quickly!

    June 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  18. SA

    What about the fathers who's ex-wives deliberalty alienate their children from the custodial father after a divorce. Imagine their heartache when they try to keep in contact, call, write with nothing in return.

    June 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  19. Migdia Chinea

    In the past, men have been too quick to walk out on their wives, families and responsibilities in the pursuit of their own selfish interests. This behavior has led to problems in the school system with angry youth who have no positive male role models in their lives.

    The most effective pieces of advice are always the simplest one. I still remember Nancy Reagan's admonishment about drug use "just say NO," and that old adage against obesity "you are what you eat." President Obama knows of which he speaks and we should listen to him. He's wise and a good man. We're lucky to have him.

    Migdia Chinea -

    June 19, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  20. SLM

    I'm sure with Obama preaching that, it'll make a big impact!! Responsibility doesn't come from someones words.

    June 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  21. Tom

    Hi mr. Cooper. Now this is breaking news!!!! When I was a boy living in Oklahoma, I was taught that Jeus was born in Mary's worm and place in a manger. Not true entirely not true. Jesus was born in Africa and went to Liberia and stayed there until he was a man and went to Liberia stayed there until he was a man and on to Israel as a man!!. And Jesus did not died on the cross he was stone to dearth and placed on the cross!!!! Hello folks!!!

    June 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  22. Cindy

    We definitely need men to step up to the plate and take care of their responsibilities. A boy can make a baby but it takes a real man to step up and raise and care for that child.

    That is what is wrong with our society today...too many boys and men playing the field and leaving when they get the woman pregnant. Too many kids are running around with no dads and think because he left that they aren't loved or worth loving. Therefore they sleep around trying to get that love and end up keeping the cycle going themselves having kid after kid and not being there for it either. They also look for the family in gangs or what not which gets them into more trouble. Having a mom and a dad is very important in a child's life no matter what anyone says.

    Cindy..Ga.

    June 19, 2009 at 12:54 pm |