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Barack Obama on Fatherhood


President Barack Obama
U.S. Senate

Barack Obama's Growing Up Years:

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father who was from Kenya who came to Hawaii on a scholarship. Barack Obama, Sr. married Ann Dunham, from Wichita, Kansas while they were both enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. When little Barack was two years old, his father and mother divorced and his father moved on to Connecticut to continue his education and then eventually back to Kenya.

Young Barack was raised by his single mother and her parents, not knowing until many years later what happened to his father. Like many young men abandoned by a divorced father, Barack tended to think of his father as a fantasy figure, but learned later that his father had left behind a string of failed marriages and families when he died in an automobile accident in Kenya in 1982.

Speaking of this experience, Obama said, "I know what it means to have an absent father, although my circumstances weren't as tough as they are for many young people today. Even though my father left us when I was 2 years old, and I only knew him from the letters he wrote and the stories that my family told, I was luckier than most. I grew up in Hawaii, and had two wonderful grandparents from Kansas who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me and who worked with her to teach us about love and respect and the obligations we have to one another."

Barack's mother remarried in Hawaii and Barack was eventually sent back to the mainland where he lived and spent his later growing up years with his maternal grandmother.

Obama's Own Family:

Barack married Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in October of 1992. When they met, Michelle was working for a law firm in downtown Chicago where Obama was a summer associate. She was his advisor in the firm for the summer experience.

Michelle and Barack have two children:

  • Malia Ann Obama was born in 1999.
  • Natasha Obama was born in 2001.

The Obamas maintain a residence on Chicago's South Side. After Barack was elected to the United States Senate, they opted to keep the family in Chicago and not move to Washington. Michelle indicates that the decision to stay in Chicago was made to provide more family stability for the girls.

Prior to his election to the United States Senate, Barack was a civil rights lawyer and community organizer in Chicago. Until May of 2007, Michelle was Vice President for Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Obama on Fatherhood:

Barack Obama believes passionately in responsible fatherhood and has been outspoken about the need for African-American fathers to step up to their responsibilities as fathers. He spoke pointedly on this topic on Father's Day 2008 to Apostolic Church of God in Chicago. The comments in this speech represent his long-standing encouragement of responsible fatherhood.

"Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.

"But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing -- missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.

"You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled -- doubled -- since we were children. We know the statistics -- that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it. ...

"We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child -- it's the courage to raise one....

"When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me -- how do I make my way in the world, and how do I become successful and how do I get the things that I want.

"But now, my life revolves around my two little girls. And what I think about is what kind of world I'm leaving them... Are they living in a country that is still divided by race? A country where, because they're girls, they don't have as much opportunity as boys do? ..."

"And what I've realized is that life doesn't count for much unless you're willing to do your small part to leave our children -- all of our children -- a better world. Even if it's difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don't get very far in our lifetime."

Now, I can’t legislate fatherhood — I can’t force anybody to love a child. But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations. What we can do is make it easier for fathers who make responsible choices and harder for those who avoid those choices. What we can do is come together and support fathers who are willing to step up and be good partners and parents and providers."

Obama on Family Issues:

Barack Obama sponsored the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007 in the United States Senate. According to Obama's campaign website, this bill is designed to "remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, ensure that support payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies, fund support services for fathers and their families, and support domestic violence prevention efforts. As president, Obama will sign this bill into law and continue to implement innovative measures to strengthen families."

Obama also supports expanded tax credits for college education expenses, living wage, expanded Earned Income Tax Credits, and universal health care.


Barack Obama for President Website
Ancestry of Barack Obama
Text of Obama's Fatherhood Speech
President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney Put Premium on Being Good Dads

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