Saturday, June 20, 2009

President Obama's Father's Day Message

WASHINGTON — Growing up without a father left a hole in his heart, President Barack Obama told boys at the White House Friday in a remarkably personal Father's Day weekend message. He implored fathers everywhere _ and the kids when they're older _ to be involved in the lives of their own children.

"This isn't an obligation," said the father of two in a message to millions of wayward dads. "This is a privilege to be a father."

Obama spent hours on Friday with teenagers, young men, community mentors and everyday dads in hopes of launching what he called a national conversation on responsible fatherhood. Each story was personal. But one of them commanded the most attention: his own.

He spoke at length about how his father, Barack Obama Sr., left home early. The future president was just 2 at the time and saw his dad only once more, at age 10, a short visit that still left a lasting imprint.

"I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it's because of them that I'm able to stand here today," he told a throng of youngsters and leaders of community organizations. "But despite all their extraordinary love and attention, that doesn't mean that I didn't feel my father's absence. That's something that leaves a hole in a child's heart that a government can't fill."

In candid terms, Obama said he promised himself he would not repeat his own father's mistakes.

"Just because your own father wasn't there for you, that's not an excuse for you to be absent also. It's all the more reason for you to be present," Obama told the young men in his audience.

"You have an obligation to break the cycle and to learn from those mistakes, and to rise up where your own fathers fell short and to do better than they did with your own children," Obama said. "That's what I've tried to do in my life."

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