ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Announcing new initiatives to promote fatherhood, President Obama offered up personal reflections of what he considers his most important job.
“I have been an attorney, I've been a professor, I've been a state senator, I've been a U.S. senator, and I currently am serving as president of the United States. But I can say without hesitation that the most challenging, most fulfilling, most important job I will have during my time on this Earth is to be Sasha and Malia's dad.”
One day after Fathers Day, the president spoke at THEARC (Town Hall Education, Arts & Recreation Campus), part of a revitalization project in South East Washington, DC.
The president said that his job has, at times, stifled his ability to be the father he wants – but that it is still his first priority.
“I made a pledge that day that I would do everything I could to give my daughter what I never had: that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father,” the president said, “I've made plenty of
mistakes as a parent. I've lost count of all the times when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood. And I know I've missed out on moments in my daughters' lives that I'll never
get back. That's a loss that's hard to accept.”
But the president countered – that children don’t need their parents to be superheroes, they just need to be engaged.
“Our children don’t need us to be superheroes. They don't need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives. They need us to show them, not just with words but with deeds, that they, those kids, are always our first priority.
To help fathers across the country be more engaged, the administration today is expanding the program set up last year around Fathers Day – to promote responsible fatherhood and mentoring nationwide.
“I can't legislate fatherhood,” Obama said, “I can't force anybody to love a child. But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there's no excuse for a male 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."
Partnering with the NFL Players Association and the National PTA, the goal is to raise awareness about what makes a responsible father, and working to reengage absent fathers with their families. Part of this effort is a new Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund, offering services like job training, parenting skills classes, and domestic violence prevention.
The program also helps dads get caught up on child support payments and launches a new jobs initiates for ex-offenders and low-income noncustodial fathers.
“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.”