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President Obama Talks Fatherhood in Morehouse College Speech

"Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important." —Barack Obama, President

President Barack Obama recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College and talked personally about fatherhood and family.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College

Here are excerpts from President Obama's speech: 

  • ...I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home -- where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
     
  • It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. Even now, I’m still practicing, I'm still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.
  • I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I'll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I'll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I'll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

Watch President Obama's full address and read President Obama's commencement speech transcript.

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Image credit: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Shaping the Kind of Fathers Children Need

rolandwarrencloseup resized 600The White House recently honored a select group of people who are doing tremendous work in the field of fatherhood. NFI President Roland C. Warren was recognized for his work as a Champion of Change in this field. Written by Warren, this post originally appeared on The White House blog.

My own life and the “life” of the organization I lead have taken similar paths. Let’s start with me. When I was about 7 years old, my parents split up. For a long time, I was frustrated and confused about my feelings for my dad, who became distant and ultimately disconnected from my daily life. I am nearly 50 years old now, and I still carry a wound - a hole in my soul in the shape of my dad. But, there were lots of wounded souls out there who were yearning for their father’s love and attention.                  

I finally realized that my personal crisis of growing up without my dad was actually a national crisis. And I was deeply inspired to do something about it. Then, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) came into my life.

From the moment I heard about the organization in the late 1990s, I knew I wanted to be involved, and by 2001, I was serving as the new president. I felt incredibly blessed that I had been given the opportunity to take my desire to change the world, born of my own personal struggle, and turn it into real action.

I had moved from inspiration to action.

For its first 7 years of existence, NFI played a critical role in putting fatherhood on the national radar screen through research, national public service announcements, media appearances, and advocacy. When I came on board, I wanted that work to continue, but I also wanted to ensure that when a father came to realize that he needed to be a better dad, that he would have somewhere to turn. I wanted to ensure that when an organization – a prison, a hospital, a military base, a church, a Head Start, a YMCA – came to the realization that it had to serve the fathers in its community, that it would have somewhere to turn, too.

Since then, NFI has distributed over 6.1 million fatherhood skill-building materials to fathers and organizations around the country. We have trained nearly 12,000 fatherhood facilitators from over 5,500 organizations on how to deliver high-quality fatherhood programming into their communities. We have worked with all five branches of the military, with prisons in every state, and with community-based organizations, such as Head Starts, YMCAs, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities. We also have supported countless smaller community-serving organizations, helping them create and execute plans to educate and equip the fathers in their neighborhoods.

On the fatherhood issue, National Fatherhood Initiative has moved the nation from inspiration to implementation.

We have helped turn the growing awareness of the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood into growing action to give men the skills they need to be the kinds of fathers their children need them to be.

All these years later, I still have moments when I am that lonely boy waiting for my dad. But that pain is now happiness when I think about all the fathers who we have helped connect or reconnect with their children. This important work is changing lives, but more needs to be done. We don’t have a fatherless child to spare.

Roland  C. Warren serves as the President of the National Fatherhood Initiative. This content originally appeared on The White House blog.

Watch The White House Champions of Change event here:

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