President Barack Obama is reflecting on the hole left in his life by the absence of his father, calling for reforms of child support laws for dads to be more present for their kids.
“There will never be a substitute for the love and support and, most importantly, the presence of a parent in a child’s life. And in many ways, that’s uniquely true for fathers,” Obama said in his weekly address released on Saturday.
He spoke ahead of Father’s Day, celebrated on Sunday in the United States, and used the occasion to rekindle the national conversation on fatherhood he launched during his first term in 2009 that especially took aim at minority youths and men.
Children who grow up with an absent father — a particular problem in minority communities in inner cities — are said to be more likely to go to prison, drop out of school, have substance abuse problems or become teenage parents themselves.
“I want to do what I can as president to encourage marriage and strong families,” Obama said.
“We should reform our child support laws to get more men working and engaged with their children. And my administration will continue to work with the faith and other community organizations, as well as businesses, on a campaign to encourage strong parenting and fatherhood.”
Obama endured a childhood mostly with an absent Kenyan Dad, and in many ways launched his political career through his memoir “Dreams from My Father,” in which he traced his own ancestry and described his upbringing.
He often credits his mother — who died of cancer in 2008 — and his late grandmother and grandfather with key roles in his meteoric rise to the pinnacle of political life.
“I still wish I had a dad who was not only around, but involved; another role model to teach me what my mom did her best to instill — values like hard work and integrity, responsibility and delayed gratification — all the things that give a child the foundation to envision a brighter future for themselves,” Obama said.
He acknowledged that being a good parent isn’t easy, regardless of the circumstances.
“To this day, I’m still figuring out how to be a better husband to my wife and father to my kids,” the president said.
“If we can do our best to be a source of comfort and encouragement to our kids, if we can show them unconditional love and help them grow into the people they were meant to be, then we will have succeeded.”