WASHINGTON-With Sunday being Father's Day, President Obama bounced from nonprofit to nonprofit Friday on a campaign to promote healthy fatherhood, an issue that is central in the mission of his Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office. It's also personal because the president grew up without his father.
Obama wrote in an article that will appear in Parade magazine on Sunday that he has been an "imperfect father," acknowledging that over the last two years of campaigning "the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood." Obama's father left when he was 2 years old, and primarily his mother and maternal grandparents raised him. His father is now deceased.
"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," Obama wrote. "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."
Obama's remarks as an African-American father resonate especially because 80 percent of African-American children spend part of their childhood separated from their fathers, according to statistics from Morehouse College. According to the most recent U.S. Census numbers, 10 million women in the United States are single mothers, 8 percent of all mothers.
"Let's be clear," he said to fathers on Friday, "Just because your own father wasn't there for you, that's not an excuse for you to be absent. . . . You have an obligation to break the cycle."
The president encouraged fathers, despite scores of economic worries on their shoulders, to be physically as well as emotionally present in their families' lives.
"We need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception," he wrote. "That what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one."
Friday the president, flanked by celebrities like skateboarder Tony Hawk and chef Bobby Flay, visited local organizations that help at-risk youth, including Christian organizations such as Covenant House and Gospel Rescue Ministries.