tv [untitled] CSPAN June 21, 2009 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
parents get concerned and those who are physically present but emotionally absent. i know that the ones here are concerned about being a dad. and some of you are concerned that you didn't have a father and worried about when you are one. and some believe that's an excuse. let's be clear, just because your own father wasn't there for you. that's no excuse for you to be gone. it's a reason to present. and you don't want to repeat the mistakes and to rise up where your own fathers fell short and do better than they did with their own children. that's what i tried to do in my life. when my daughters were born, i
made a pledge that i would do everything i could to give them things that i didn't have. and for one thing in life to be a good father. i haven't known how to do that, and have made mistakes and had to ask questions. and i have learned from a role model, michelle's father. this man was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he got up everyday, and went to a blue collar job, by the time i knew him, he was using two crutches. and he went to every recital and every ballgame of michelle's bother, -- brother, and he was there constantly.
and that's the standard i strive for. i don't always meet it, i have made mistakes as a parent and i am sure more. and there are days when the demands have taken me from the duties of a father, and those are moments i won't get back. but it's not just about being perfect, but to try. and that's something that everyone can do. it's going and sticking with it and to let the kids know that they are your first priority. and we need dads and men that are not dads to, make this commitment not only in their own homes, but to many people that were not fortunate enough
to have compassionate dads. we need mentors and big brothers and to just shoot hoops or talk with them. just even smallest moments can have a lasting impact on a child's life. i am grateful to a number of organizations working on these issues. some are faith-based and some not, and some government funded, but all of you have those same commitments to lift up the importance of fatherhood in the communities. this is not the end but the beginning, and we have regional townhall meetings to make sure that participants all across the country are having that positive effect. and i want to thank the young people here, you are the ones
that will have to carry this. [applause] you dads, i know we have had some discussion, and i want to see if we can expand the conversation. we should have some microphones in the audience, so everyone can be heard. mike, are you going to be like oprah? >> i am not going to be like oprah. >> ok, i will call on folks, they can ask questions or share organizations that are doing great work on fatherhood. please tell us about the work you are doing. and i want to hear from the young people, who somehow ended up sitting in the back. i don't know how that happened. i will start here. >> i am riland, president of national fatherhood initiatives. and thank you for what you are doing on this issue, a lot of
folks have been toiling on this issue, and to have you step forward and make this a national priority. and though you have had obviously success without your dad, but you needed them. and this is important, because we need to focus on that issue, we need to change the legacy and have our dads pass on a different legacy. so thank you for the work you are doing around this issue. >> thank you so much. i want to emphasize this point how just small moments and gestures can make a huge difference. you know a lot of folks know that i love playing basketball. but it was my father who gave me my first basketball. even though he wasn't a part of
my life. in the first weeks i was with him, he gave me my basketball. and i love jazz, and he took me to my first jazz concert. and that imprint is powerful. and imagine if that sustained everyday. and especially young men when they hit the teenager years, to have someone there to provide them guidance. that makes all the difference in the world. and this is not to take away from the heroic work that the moms are doing. but the moms need help. if you a single mom like mine was, and going to school or working. the pressures are enormous and to have someone there to carry on the child-rearing responsibilities is critical. anyone else? let me get one of these young
people. >> good afternoon, i am larry, i attend a school for boys. traveling from state to state and country to country, being a president. which is funner, being a father or president? >> oh, wow. i mean this, nothing is more fun than being a father. now my kids aren't teenagers yet so i don't know -- i don't know if that will maintain itself. but right now the greatest joy i get is just hanging out with the girls and talking to them and watching them grow and succeed. and probably the most fun i have had since i have been president was at a parent-teacher conference where
the teachers were braging on my children. and i just sat there and basked in the glory. and nothing is more important than that, i think that a lot of fathers can relate to that. but here's the important point, with as many responsibility as i v -- i have, it turns out you can still carve out time to make sure you are having a conversation with your kid. and what it does mean that fathers sometimes have to give up stuff that they like to do instead. like sit there and watch sportscenter. and i know we have d-wade, and i know, instead of watching for the first time sports center, i just watch it once.
so i can spend time with the girls because they don't like watching basketball that much. but being president is pretty fun too, no doubt about it. next question. here. >> hi, mr. president, i am chris, i founded an organization in indianapolis and i hope that these dialogues continue to let everyone know this is not a rich or poor, or north or south or black-and-white, this affects everyone from upper class to the lower class, and that's who we work with. and over the years, i have heard stories and so appreciative, we have a service in indianapolis of all fathers, and i hope we can keep that on a national level. >> absolutely, i think this is
important to emphasize. 23% of young people are growing up without fathers. now in the african-american community, it's 50% or maybe a little lower. so there is a real crisis going on in the african-american community on this issue. but it's a more pervasive issue. i went to an organization called year-up, that has young people getting trained after high school, most of them. on specific job-training skills and computer skills and how to conduct themselves in an office and write an e-mail, etc. and i said specifically to the young men, you can't use anything as an excuse not to be involved with your children.
you know, cause kids they won't judge you based on whether you are wealthy or poor. they will judge you if you are abusive to their mother. they will judge you in terms of you not showing up when they need you. that's what makes a difference. and kids will respect their fathers if their fathers are showing kindness and are modeling that they are working hard and trying to do what is right for their families. kids will understand that sometimes families fall on hard times. they get that, joe biden is here and joe i want to talk to you. you had a terrific relationship but he fell on hard times and
you talk about him as the most important guiding role. >> mr. president, i think this is great what you are doing, this is a big deal. the president said that fathers make mistakes and i made my share. my father said there is a mistake that a father shouldn't make, to communicate to their child that there is total unconditional love. and it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor or smart or handsome or not. it doesn't matter. kids need love. and as a single parent, mr. president, i did that having two sons as evan knows. and my mom has an expression, and she said, i can hear her when i was a kid, saying it to her peers. she said, be careful how you
treat your children, you may need them some day. and i want to tell you, the president knows my sons and daughter, it doesn't change, the happiest thing in the world is being a father. this day my 40-year-old son is attorney in state of delaware and my 29-year-old son and my daughter. and if captain biden walked in the door today, the first thing he would do is give me a kiss. i mean it. and the point is that it gives me more joy. and it gives every father in this room more joy than any other thing that happens in your life. mr. president, you are a great president and dad, and you are really good to be doing this. it's a big deal. >> all right, thank you. [applause] anybody back here want to
comment on some of the things they heard or saw. go ahead. >> i would like to ask you a question. at one point you had decided you want to run for president, with two young daughters. can you share how you had to wrestle that decision. >> it's a great question, and i think i have said this before, the threshold question i had to ask in conjunction with michelle. because this was a joint decision, was could our family handle it. and frankly if it hadn't been for michelle's extraordinary strength and commitment, i would not have done it or could not have done it. and she was able to handle for big chunks of time being like a single mom. i want to emphasize, we're luckier than most, we have more resources than most.
i don't want to diminish, how tough it is if you are working two shifts and coming home beat. and then suddenly you are also expected to help on the homework and all of these things. it's a big challenge for a lot of families. and we had more resources than most. i don't think we would have made the same decision if our kids were older. part of the really it was ok, when i started running, sacha was five and malia was eight. and they were in chicago with my mother-in-law and had a community and network that would help. and we felt they would thrive. the person that suffered the most was me. i would be calling from god
knows where and they would be having fun and laughing. and kids don't talk on the phone that well. i would be, sasha, how is your day. fine. what did you do? nothing. you know, those conversations. so there were times when just physically i wanted to be with them and couldn't. it was the hardest part of deciding to run for president. the best thing about being president, by the way, is having a home office. that means that i get home for dinner. and even if i have to go back to work. and that makes all the difference in the world. ok. got one behind you. >> i am used to you throwing my
questions away. i wanted to thank you very much, we started an initiative with al dodson and called daddy's promise. and what i wanted to tell, the service of the image of you and your family and daughters, has made it ten-fold easier to involve the men. the media is powerful and i want to thank you and encourage everyone to do so in your neighborhoods. as we look to this man and others in the media, it's those of you there on an everyday basis. and when you see parents with children, it goes a long way. >> i appreciate that , and you made the right point, it's one thing seeing people on tv. and it's another thing seeing
that young father down the street who is just like you, except he's holding his baby in his arms. or taking that toddler to the park or participating in the a little liege. -- little league. that's where young people get their images of what it means to be a man. more than they do from what is on the screen. but i very much appreciate what you said. i am going to call on a token mom here. just so she can comment on these things. >> good to see you. i want to say for women, i am a mother and grandmother, this is a day of celebration for us. we just felt our shoulders lifted. not having a father, but thank you bill and mr. mcdaniel for
coming over baloo. the only time you hear about this high school is when someone is shot and killed. and today the kids asked, they are coming to see us? i want to thank you on their behalf, you cared enough about children on the other side of the river. my question, how do we keep lifting up the stories of the kid not in trouble. who goes past the drug dealers, who decides to stay in school. we spend so much emphasis on what is not working. how do we talk about what is working? >> i think you make a great point. i want to thank these wonderful men that took the time. and coach, it's the first time you have seen red skin fans cheer for you, that doesn't happen that often. but these men for taking the
time to do this. give them a round of applause. [applause] but you are right, reverend, sometimes we have to lift up success than just remark on failure. because the young men i met at the trip i took to europe, these were extraordinary young people. they were poised and polished. and these are all kids from the neighborhood. but they had, somebody had reached out to show that they care. and it turns out that young people are incredibly resilient. it doesn't take that much, just someone to put a hand on them. saying, you are important and i am listening to them. it's the wrong person, the
gangbanger, they will respond to that. or the person in the community, they will respond to that. we need to affirm positive behavior and not just condemn bad behavior. a lot of times young people need to be told, that if you -- one the neat things about this program i was looking at. they had a whole code, the first thing they train young people is on how do you interact with others. they were shaking your hand and not mumbling, and there were certain words they have banned from usage. not just curse words, they were saying, don't go around and say shorty and what's up "g." because that's not professional.
and all that was important to them and they absorbed it quickly. but it requires spending a little time and lifting up some role models. ok. all right. this is always tough, the last question thing. i will call on one of these young people again. here, this man here. >> i was wondering. >> what is your name? >> i am nick from st. aldbins, mr. president, how did you feel when you first became a father? >> first of all, malia was born on the fourth of july. and every first father has this memory, you are waiting and waiting, and suddenly michelle woke me up around 3-4 o'clock, and i was sleepy, she said, hey buster, i think this baby is
happening. it was like a movie, i was jumping out the bed and looking for my shoes, the bag. and things went fairly smoothly. but you know the first time you see that child and bringing her home, driving really slow. in that little car seat. and then that night knowing that there was this new life inside your house in a little basinet. and remembering to check on them every five minutes to make sure they are breathing. and then feeling them lying on your chest when you fed them of the and they are falling asleep. and you knew at that moment something, if you are not a father yet, people say and you
don't believe. which is at that moment, you realize you will do anything for that child. there is nothing you wouldn't do for them. in a heartbeat, and that bond between a parent and a child is something that, you know, is precious, it's sacred. and it's a true blessing. sometimes i think in the hustle of life you forget what a blessing that is. and ultimately after all this stuff is done, after joe and i are retired and nobody knows our name. the one thing that we will remember are those moments. right, when you were holding your kid and watching them grow. and the first time they walked. that's the stuff that will stay with you. and that's why if there is one
last thing i want to communicate to those fathers who maybe haven't been involved if their child's life. it's to emphasize that this isn't an obligation. this is a privilege. to be a father. and that's something that all of us should take on for themselves. [applause] thank you everyone for participating. thank you. [applause] >> following the townhall meeting on friday, president obama and his guests went to the south lawn of the white house, to a barbeque and the president may being some brief remarks.
[applause] >> hello everybody. everybody have a seat. first of all, let's give thanks that it's not raining. because we thought it might be and we were worried that bobby would be sending smoke into the white house. but it's a beautiful day, i want to personally acknowledge them, and i want to introduce them. some young people may be sitting with them. the extraordinary men participating in this event today. first chief quarter master, john lennon. thank you. and dwyane wade, i hear he plays basketball good. eton thomas, another basketball player.
greg brown, the c.e.o. of motorola. and our outstanding football player. jorge a journalist in the country, and b.b.wane, and tony hawk, the outstanding skateboarder in the world. darrell mcdaniels, mike glass, a small businessman, and senator edward bye, and president david lad, the president of a community college and my staff, dennis mc dona and reggie love, and bobby
mashay with this good-looking grub. i don't want to talk long, i want to come around and say hello to everyone. i want to thank all for participating. for the young people here today, i just hope that the message we are sending out, about how important fathers are. it's something that you will internalize. because all of you are probably going to end up being fathers. and the time is now to start thinking about what that means in terms of responsibilities. what it means to be a man. and the men you are sitting with today, exempify whether famous or not, they embody that spirit of love and dedication and commitment that fatherhood is all about. we appreciate all of you. i don't want to get in the way