Washington: The president of the United States said Sunday the most important job was not his but that of being a good father.
In an emotional plea to supporters on Father`s Day, President and First Father Barack Obama encouraged dads to "step up and fulfill their responsibilities as parents, partners and providers.
"As the father of two young daughters, I know that being a father is one of the most important jobs any man can have," Obama said, referring to his daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, nine.
Obama, whose Kenyan father left him when he was only two years old, has launched a national dialogue on how to address early on the challenges of father absence, dispatching top officials around the country to discuss the issue.
"I was raised by a heroic mother and wonderful grandparents who provided the support, discipline and love that helped me get to where I am today, but I still felt the weight of that absence throughout my childhood. It`s something that leaves a hole no government can fill," he said in an emailed statement.
"Studies show that children who grow up without their fathers around are more likely to drop out of high school, go to jail, or become teen fathers themselves."
The statement came a day before the president was due to unveil his Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative to "help fathers fulfill their responsibilities as parents."
The White House said he would "discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood and mentoring to build healthy families and communities" at an event in Washington.
"This Father`s Day, I`m thankful for the opportunity to be a dad to two wonderful daughters," Obama said. "And I`m thankful for all the wonderful fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and friends who are doing their best to make a difference in the lives of a child."
In his traditional presidential proclamation on the Father`s Day holiday, Obama took the unusual step of giving a nod to non-traditional fathering by mentioning the role of families with "two fathers."
"Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step-father, a grandfather, or caring guardian," he said in the annual statement released on Friday.
In his first Father`s Day declaration, last year, Obama also honored "those surrogate fathers who raise, mentor, or care for someone else`s child."
First Lady Michelle Obama has spearheaded a "Let`s Move" anti-childhood obesity drive and encouraged parents and teachers to educate kids about good nutrition and improve the quality of US school meals.
She has pointed to the urgency of taking action today, at a time when there are already three times more obese children in the United States than 30 years ago.