Obama’s Father’s Day essay for Parade: dads need to ‘step up’

A few days before President Obama’s inauguration, he penned an open letter to his daughters, trying to explain what his daughters meant to him, and why they were the reason he ran for president. The letter was published in Parade, and it was a tear-jerker. Obama wrote lines like this: “I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours…. It is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.”

For Father’s Day, Parade asked Obama to write another essay/letter type thing. This time Parade’s assignment to the president was “to reflect on what fatherhood means to him.” Parade put an excerpt from the essay on its site:

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.

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.

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.

We need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.

We need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what’s going on in their lives.

I know I have been an imperfect father. I know I have made mistakes. I have lost count of all the times, over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood. There were many days out on the campaign trail when I felt like my family was a million miles away, and I knew I was missing moments of my daughters’ lives that I’d never get back. It is a loss I will never fully accept.

On this Father’s Day, I think back to the day I drove Michelle and a newborn Malia home from the hospital nearly 11 years ago—crawling along, miles under the speed limit, feeling the weight of my daughter’s future resting in my hands. I think about the pledge I made to her that day: that I would give her what I never had—that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father.

[From Parade]

I believe Obama when he talks about his faults as a husband and father -I think he really felt anguish in all of that time away from Michelle and the girls when he was campaigning, and he’s trying to get that time back. I found his “if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father” line interesting. Of all of the cool titles – POTUS, Commander In Chief, Renegade, amongst others, it’s telling that his favorite title is “dad”.

Photos are from 4/13/09 and 4/14/09. Credit: WENN.com

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24 Responses to “Obama’s Father’s Day essay for Parade: dads need to ‘step up’”

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  1. Diana says:

    “Listening to and talking with,” are the keys. Barack learned from both the pain of absence, his father, and the presence of, his grandparents.

    Emotionally available to his daughter’s. A dad’s gift of love.

  2. Cizz says:

    What a man

  3. j. ferber says:

    I didn’t think I could love him more, but I do now. I think it’s funny and great that American women are now comparing their men to Obama and wanting a man like Obama in their lives (I read that somewhere). Does anyone deserve anything less? I am so, so glad that we finally have a real man in office again (not that I wouldn’t want a real woman in office, too). The Bush/Cheney fiasco reminds me that a real man is compassionate and tough. Though he’ll make mistakes in office (he’s only human) I am proud to have him lead us and to put my trust in him.

  4. Kath Jaynes says:

    Thats really beautifully written. I have tears in my eyes.

  5. Lem says:

    that’s such a beautiful B&W photo.

    I know things are not always as they seem but they seem like such a strong and grounded family.

    A great father can really make such a difference in life. Mine is wonderful!

  6. Mary Jane says:

    His autobio, “Dreams From My Father” was also beautifully written and honest — the man can truly communicate.

    A father’s availability is crucial — especially to daughters! AND NOT just financially!

    My friend Alicia M. Crowe has a book “Real Dads Stand Up” and works hard to promote fathers’ legal rights as well as responsible father participation. Check out her site and info…

  7. loldongs says:

    Obama is a gender traitor.

    Men aren’t the ones in society committing paternity fraud.

    This is borderline shaming speech.

  8. Dazed and Confused says:

    You’re right Diana, emotional availability IS a father’s gift to a daughter.

    My father started out all right and then emotionally absent–when I turned 9 he withdrew from me and his main form of communication from then on was yelling and bullying. When I had a problem, he didn’t listen to me, didn’t guide me, and didn’t help prepare me for the world of work and reality. I don’t know why this personality change/emotional withdrawal happened but it hurt a lot and had a negative impact on my life and my relationships with men.

    I’m happy that Obama is putting the message out there that children need fathers.

  9. loldongs says:

    Yes children need fathers, but it’s the preponderance of willing single mothers who are at fault.

    Men aren’t simply up and abandoning kids on record levels.

    I know more cases of women dating a guy for a few months, getting pregnant, breaking up and slapping him with a restraining order.

    Then, only fucking around with random dudes because if some other guy started cohabitating with her, under our fucked laws, he would be financially responsible.

    The legal system concerning parents in this nation is biased heavily against men.

  10. mE says:

    Hey, dongs? Are you saying that women are to blame for all absent fathers? Seriously? Maybe I misunderstand.

    While I disagree with Obama on many things political (much of it having to do with parents valuing the lives of their children from the start) he is spot on on this one. There are so many children who are suffereing from lack of having a father. Wasn’t Bill Clinton raised by a single mother also? What a missed opportunity for him to show the strong position on the importance of fatherhood that Obama is obviously taking.

    Prayers for his parenting effort for his daughters. It is hard enough to raise children but for them to have the stress of being in that fishbowl during their father’s presidency they have a rough road ahead. It is hard for a man to learn to be a father if he never had one himself.

  11. yeah, right! says:

    “much of it having to do with parents valuing the lives of their children from the start”

    yeah, because the republican way is much better.

    Value the life when it’s a fetus, but discard ’em after they come out by gutting all the funding for the social programs that the kid will need AFTER he/she is born.

    where are all the republicans adopting the babies that they don’t want aborted?

  12. stellapurdy says:

    Actually loldongs does have a good point although I don’t think Obama is to blame for it. It is true that the laws at least in NYS are biased against the father of the child. And there are plenty of women that get pregnant knowing that they’ll be able to keep the cash flowing from the government and the father. That’s not to say that the man shouldn’t be culpable and financially responsible for making the baby, after all he could have worn a condom. However I do believe that the whole child support system needs to be over hauled and the father doesn’t always get the same fair representation in the courts that the mother does.

    That is all. Carry on.

  13. Wresa says:

    I agree, loldongs. Some laws need to be reformed, and lots of women need to grow up and respect their ability to produce a child.

    However, I don’t think this is a political message, or stance on laws. I think he is just setting up an ideal for fathers to live up to.

    On that note, doesn’t it seem like there are millions of books, magazines and classes out there giving advice on motherhood, but hardly anything on being a good father? It sort of puts dads at a disadvantage before the kid is even born…

  14. Dingles says:

    I think Cizz summed it up perfectly. America, this is what a real man looks like.

  15. girl says:

    Do you have any actual evidence that Republicans don’t adopt children in the numbers non-Republicans do? That would certainly be interesting to see. I know this is only anecdotal but by and far the group I know that opens up their homes to foster children and follow through with adoption are pro-lifers (who are not necessarily Republicans). The vast majority of those families have specifically opened their homes to special needs and/or “hard to place” children as well.

    I am sure there are pro-choicers who have done the same. I, however, am not going to stupidly say that Democrats as a monolithic group only care about XYZ .

  16. Enonymous says:

    loldongs you seem to have a chip on your shoulder, the problem with men is that even being married to the mother of their child(ren), most of them still chose to distance themselves and force the woman to be the primary carer of the kid(s). I agree that there are some cases out there were fathers want to participate in their child’s life fully but face unfortunate obstacles but most of them are more then happy to have a responsible-free lifestyle and the law simple recognizes it and that why it chooses to side more with the mother. The law can’t force the father to be involved in their child’s life if they don’t particularly want to but it can at least force some financial responsibility to men, it is the least they can do for their offspring. Men want their cake and eat it too, they should stop whining all the time and truly step up to the challenge and then the Law might side with them.

    As for Obama, that was a very touching, sweet letter. I am sure his daughters are very proud of him.

  17. Yae says:

    WEll, Obama. Do something about the useless American institution we call “Child Support Enforcement”. A system that does little to NOTHING to collect child support from dead beat dads.
    I’m owed over $70,000. My case workers change 3xtimes a year. And when they find my x-husband they send him a letter (just letting him know to run again). They don’t arrest these men or make them pay for abandoning their children.
    Change THAT Obama. FYI:** the state gets federal $$$ for dead beat dads to create USELESS insitutions and JOBS (the existance of child support enforcement). Its a money making/job creating industry. NOONE is going to want that to change or for the deadbeats to ACTUALLY PAY. I doubt Obama will change anything.
    Its all cute in this article….but trust me, he will do nothing. Me and my son wont hold my breath.

  18. Yae says:

    loldongs, read what I just wrote. My case is not uncommon. Its the NORM. This wasnt a man I “slept” with, it was my HUSBAND of 7 years who took off when his child was 5 years old with another woman. Sure they will get the “little guy”. But the big fish are what keep their jobs……they have no interest in finding them.
    Oh and to top it off….if they DO find him he has to pay off the STATE for the one year I got help from them BEFORE MY SON SEES A PENNY. Hows THAT for a kick in a mother’s face?

  19. j. ferber says:

    Dong, Judges don’t hand out protection orders like gum drops; there has to be real reason. I think if your friends have restraint orders against them, they deserve them. Remember, you’re only getting their side of the story, in which they are justified in everything they do. If I were you, I’d get new friends. You also have a real axe to grind about women, but believe that men abandon their families all the time and refuse to pay child support. Just look up the statistics on that.

  20. loldongs says:

    Sorry Yae, I my father abandoned me and my mother at a young age, so by all rights I should be biased in favor of what he’s saying, but the fact of the matter is I’ve known MANY MANY more men who have been screwed over by women who are playing the system for all it’s worth.

    I’m sorry to tell you but some 70% of divorces are sought by women and a strong majority of those involve infidelity.

    You can see where this is going statistically.

    If a woman has sole reproductive rights as feminists whinge about so incessantly, that also means they’re responsible for whom they conceive with. As they’ve got sole rights, that comes with advantages AND responsibilities.

    I’m certainly not making excuses for my father who did a very cowardly thing, however his actions were the exception and NOT the trend.

    I know you’re hurt, but you must see this cultural shift for what it is.

    I would advise women to “step-up” and take some accountability for the men they’re choosing to breed with.

    Furthermore your situation CANNOT be the trend as the rate of marriage is the lowest it’s ever been in recorded history.

    So simply put, the majority of men doing this are not in committed long-term marriages/relationships.

    If you realize that, you begin to realize that this problem in our culture now is the result of poor decision making by those who have “sole reproductive rights”.

    Sorry… I feel for you, but blaming the common man who is already powerless in society is a nothing but scapegoating par excellance.

  21. loldongs says:


    Leading into an argument with an ad hominem logical fallacy is always a sign of one fighting from a losing position.

    Try again and instead of attacking me, take to task my claim with facts.

    Shaming language will not be tolerated by me nor will it go unanswered.

    As you will see with my previous post, I should in theory be all for such a statement. However I am objective enough having been made aware of the reality, that I had to overcome my own personal feelings and accept the truth for what it was.

    Simply put, you invalidate your position by personally attacking me.

  22. Enonymous says:

    loldongs, you need to chill out, no one was attacking you (I was actually trying to be as polite and fair as possible), I just stated a very obvious fact based on your comments. You just can’t make an unfair statement like that generalizing all women in a negative light then be defensive when someone contradicts you or your gender. As for you requiring real facts about my argument, I am a law student doing a Master’s degree in family law so I know a thing or two about this subject, plus having experienced it also in my personal life. You might not like what I wrote for whatever personal reasons you might have but it does not make it a false and an inaccurate accusation.

  23. fizXgirl314 says:

    this is ridiculous dingdong… why don’t you look up statistics and stop listening to tom leykis before you form opinions… you’re an idiot and a complete moron… making grand generalizations like that… douchebag…

  24. Enonymous says:

    loldongs, you need to shake off the chips you have on both shoulders and whatever problems you have, you need to stop blaming others and take responsibility for your own sh*t. Whining about women is not going to do you any favors, for your own peace of mind or solve your situation.