President Obama Promotes Responsible Fatherhood: "No Excuses"

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The President spent his day today reflecting on fatherhood, how it shapes our kids, and the responsibilities fathers face. He spoke this morning at an event in Washington, DC before hosting a Father’s Day Mentoring Barbeque on the South Lawn later on. He referred back to an initiative he and his Administration launched around Father’s Day of 2009:

One year ago this week, we kicked off a national conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility, and members of our administration fanned out all across the country to hear from fathers and families about the challenges that they face.  Secretary Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, held a discussion in New Hampshire about the link between fatherhood and educational achievement.  Gary Locke talked to fathers in California about balancing the needs of their families with the demands of their jobs.  Secretary Shinseki, of Veterans Affairs, held a town hall for military and veteran dads in North Carolina.  And Attorney General Holder traveled to Georgia for a forum about fathers in our criminal justice system. 

President Obama Speaks on Fatherhood

President Barack Obama waves to people on the stage after speaking about the importance of responsible fatherhood and mentoring to build healthy families and communities at THEARC in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President gave a nod to the single mothers picking up the slack:

We can all agree that we’ve got too many mothers out there forced to do everything all by themselves.  They’re doing a heroic job, often under trying circumstances.  They deserve a lot of credit for that.  But they shouldn’t have to do it alone.  The work of raising our children is the most important job in this country, and it’s all of our responsibilities -- mothers and fathers.  (Applause.)

Now, I can’t legislate fatherhood -- I can’t force anybody to love a child.  But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations.  What we can do is make it easier for fathers who make responsible choices and harder for those who avoid those choices.  What we can do is come together and support fathers who are willing to step up and be good partners and parents and providers. 

And that’s why today we’re launching the next phase of our work to promote responsible fatherhood -- a new, nationwide Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative.  This is a call to action with cities and states, with individuals and organizations across the country -- from the NFL Players Association to the National PTA, to everyday moms and dads -- we’re raising awareness about responsible fatherhood and working to re-engage absent fathers with their families. 

As part of this effort, we’ve proposed a new and expanded Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund.  And we plan to seek out and support the very best, most successful initiatives in our states and communities -- those that are offering services like job training, or parenting skills classes, domestic violence prevention -- all which help provide the kind of network of support for men, particularly those in vulnerable communities. 

We’re also going to help dads who get caught up -- we want to make sure that they're caught up on child support payments and that we re-engage them in their children’s lives.  We’re going to support efforts to build healthy relationships between parents as well -- because we know that children benefit not just from loving mothers and loving fathers, but from strong and loving marriages as well.  (Applause.)  

We’re also launching a new transitional jobs initiative for ex-offenders and low-income, non-custodial fathers --(applause) -- because these are men who often face serious barriers to finding work and keeping work.  We’ll help them develop the skills and experience they need to move into full-time, long-term employment, so they can meet their child support obligations and help provide for their families.

President Obama Speaks at Fatherood Barbecue

President Barack Obama addresses the Father’s Day mentoring barbeque on the South Lawn of the White House, June 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama Greets Kids at Fatherood Barbecue

President Barack Obama greets guests attending a Father’s Day mentoring barbeque on the South Lawn of the White House, June 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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