Barack Obama Celebrates First Father's Day in the White House

Filed under: Holidays, Celeb Parents, In The News

In January, "Parade" magazine published a letter that Barack Obama wrote to his daughters, which was really a letter about his hopes for all of America's children.

This Sunday, the President will celebrate his first Father's Day in the White House. And he again marked the day with a letter in "Parade," only this time it was to America's fathers ... a tough-love call for dads everywhere to step up and be a part of their children's lives.

Sasha and Malia Obama

    President Obama and daughter Malia look on as Sasha lights a candle at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

    Pete Souza/Flickr

    The First Family (shown here arriving in Chicago in February) are jetting off to France. This will be Sasha and Malia's first official trip abroad since moving into the White House.

    Getty Images

    President Obama told "Newsweek" that dating "will be an issue" for his girls. "I have men with guns surrounding them at all times, which I'm perfectly happy with, but they may feel differently about it."

    Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    Malia Obama walks First Dog Bo on the White House Grounds in April of 2009.

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    Just days after the inauguration, the makers of Beanie Babies introduced "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia." Now they're valued at over $3,000 for the pair.

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    A boy sneaks a photo of Sasha and Malia as they watch their mom speak to 6th and 7th grade school children from around Washington, DC, in February 2008.

    Getty Images

    Sasha Obama runs down the colonnade as she returns to the White House after a February 2009 weekend visit to Chicago.

    Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

    President Obama took a night off from running the nation to hang out with the family and watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at the Kennedy Center.

    Getty Images

    The Obama girls were easy, breezy and totally adorable on their father's inauguration day. Malia, 10, wore a double-breasted periwinkle-blue coat with a blue-ribbon tied in a bow at the waist. Seven-year-old Sasha wore a matching outfit in pinks and corals; both coats were from Crewcuts by J. Crew.

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    Sasha gives her father the thumbs up following the presidential oath.

    Stan Honda, AFP, Getty Images



Obama grew up without his father -- who left the family when Barack was only two -- in his life, and was raised by his mother and his grandparents. It's an absence that marked Obama's childhood, but he says it also helped him become a better father to his own daughters, Malia and Sasha.

"In many ways," writes Obama, "I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence -- both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill."

Instead, Obama plainly asks America's dads to realize that "what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one."

Obama admits that his life as a politician has taken him away from his own family more than he would have liked. In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama has said that one of the surprising perks of Obama's Presidency is that the family gets to see each other every day -- something that didn't always happen during all the years of campaigning.

"I know I have been an imperfect father. I know I have made mistakes. I have lost count of all the times, over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood. There were many days out on the campaign trail when I felt like my family was a million miles away, and I knew I was missing moments of my daughters' lives that I'd never get back. It is a loss I will never fully accept."

But Obama isn't asking American dads to be perfect, just to be dads who are invested in their children's lives ... dads who love, listen, cherish and protect. Obama shares a touching moment that any dad who's ever been overwhelmed while cradling his first newborn can relate to:

"On this Father's Day, I think back to the day I drove Michelle and a newborn Malia home from the hospital nearly 11 years ago -- crawling along, miles under the speed limit, feeling the weight of my daughter's future resting in my hands. I think about the pledge I made to her that day: that I would give her what I never had -- that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father."

I think, often, when dads are absent it's because they underrate their importance in their children's lives. But President Obama isn't allowing men to feel that this Father's Day. He knows from experience that when dads go missing, kids feel their absence, and he's asking dads everywhere to step up and be a part of their children's lives.

What do you think about the President's essay? And how will you be honoring Dad this Father's Day?

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