Inspiring words from the Commander-in-Chief during a young men’s barbecue at the White House on Friday. Students from local schools came to discuss the importance of fatherhood and taking personal responsibility with President Obama and other famous fathers.
Said the President:
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.
He 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…
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.
President Obama intends the event to be the start of a “national conversation” about the importance of fatherhood.
Right with you on that, Mr President.