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Weekly Address: Celebrating Father's Day

WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama reflected on Father’s Day and his experience as a parent and discussed the challenges and necessity of being a good father. The President knows that many Americans who want to be better fathers lack the resources to spend quality time with their children, so the White House has fostered new partnerships with businesses in an effort to support bonding opportunities for fathers and their families. While the President recognizes that fatherhood is demanding and often trying, especially during a time of economic struggle and when many Americans are serving our country overseas, he reminds parents that above all, children need unconditional love, whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough. So as President Obama continuously strives to be the best father he can be, he calls on fathers across the country to do the same. 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
June 18, 2011

Hi, everybody.  This Father’s Day weekend, I’d like to spend a couple minutes talking about what’s sometimes my hardest, but always my most rewarding job – being a dad.

I grew up without my father around. He left when I was two years old, and even though my sister and I were lucky enough to have a wonderful mother and caring grandparents to raise us, I felt his absence.  And I wonder what my life would have been like had he been a greater presence.

That’s why I’ve tried so hard to be a good dad for my own children.  I haven’t always succeeded, of course – in the past, my job has kept me away from home more often than I liked, and the burden of raising two young girls would sometimes fall too heavily on Michelle.

But between my own experiences growing up, and my ongoing efforts to be the best father I can be, I’ve learned a few things about what our children need most from their parents.

First, they need our time.  And more important than the quantity of hours we spend with them is the quality of those hours.  Maybe it’s just asking about their day, or talking a walk together, but the smallest moments can have the biggest impact.

They also need structure, including learning the values of self-discipline and responsibility. Malia and Sasha may live in the White House these days, but Michelle and I still make sure they finish their schoolwork, do their chores, and walk the dog.

And above all, children need our unconditional love – whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.

And life is tough for a lot of Americans today.  More and more kids grow up without a father figure.  Others miss a father who’s away serving his country in uniform.  And even for those dads who are present in their children’s lives, the recession has taken a harsh toll.  If you’re out of a job or struggling to pay the bills, doing whatever it takes to keep the kids healthy, happy and safe can understandably take precedence over all else.

That’s why my administration has offered men who want to be good fathers a little extra support.  We’ve boosted community and faith-based groups focused on fatherhood, partnered with businesses to offer opportunities for fathers to spend time with their kids at the bowling alley or ballpark, and worked with military chaplains to help deployed dads connect with their children.

We’re doing this because we all have a stake in forging stronger bonds between fathers and their children.  And you can find out more about some of what we’re doing at Fatherhood.gov.

But we also know that every father has a personal responsibility to do right by our kids as well. All of us can encourage our children to turn off the video games and pick up a book.  All of us can pack a healthy lunch for our son, or go outside and play ball with our daughter.  And all of us can teach our children the difference between right and wrong, and show them through our own example the value in treating one another as we wish to be treated.

Our kids are pretty smart.  They understand that life won’t always be perfect, that sometimes, the road gets rough, that even great parents don’t get everything right.

But more than anything, they just want us to be a part of their lives.

So recently, I took on a second job: assistant coach for Sasha’s basketball team.  On Sundays, we’d get the team together to practice, and a couple of times, I’d help coach the games.  It was a lot of fun – even if Sasha rolled her eyes when her dad voiced his displeasure with the refs.

But I was so proud watching her run up and down the court, seeing her learn and improve and gain confidence.  And I was hopeful that in the years to come, she’d look back on experiences like these as the ones that helped define her as a person – and as a parent herself.       

In the end, that’s what being a parent is all about – those precious moments with our children that fill us with pride and excitement for their future; the chances we have to set an example or offer a piece of advice; the opportunities to just be there and show them that we love them.

That’s something worth remembering this Father’s Day, and every day.

Thanks, and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.  Have a great weekend.

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