Thoughtful Quotes About Fatherhood From Barack Obama

·7 min read
The Obama family sits for a portrait in the Green Room of the White House on Sept. 1, 2009. (Photo: Handout via Getty Images)
The Obama family sits for a portrait in the Green Room of the White House on Sept. 1, 2009. (Photo: Handout via Getty Images)

Barack Obama has been known to wax poetic about international relations, domestic policy and political philosophy. He takes the same approach to the topic of parenting.

The former president has two daughters, Malia and Sasha, with his wife, Michelle Obama. Over his decades in the spotlight, Obama has opened up about his experience raising children, from the ways they inspire him to his embarrassing dad moments.

In honor of his birthday, we’ve rounded up 20 quotes about fatherhood from Obama.

On The Role Of Fathers

“For many of us, our fathers show us by the example they set the kind of people they want us to become. Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, they teach us through the encouragement they give, the questions they answer, the limits they set, and the strength they show in the face of difficulty and hardship.”

On What It Takes To Be A Dad

“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. Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”

On What Makes Him Proud As A Parent

“To Malia and Sasha and their friends, discrimination in any form against anyone doesn’t make sense. As president, and as a dad, that makes me proud.”

On Coaching His Daughter’s Basketball Team

“Watching 9-, 10-year-old girls playing basketball and just fierce, just intense about it, is terrific. And last year I actually did some coaching ... And you know what’s amazing is how much more stressful coaching and watching these girls was than when I was playing. You just want them to win so bad. And when they actually run a play and it works — you’re just ecstatic. And a couple of heartbreaking losses and you’re just feeling terrible. But they’re wonderful.”

President-elect Barack Obama stands on stage with his family during an election night gathering in Grant Park in Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008. (Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images)
President-elect Barack Obama stands on stage with his family during an election night gathering in Grant Park in Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008. (Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images)

On What Kids Need

“Above all, children need our unconditional love — whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.”

On How His Children Inspire Him

“I’m inspired by the love people have for their children. And I’m inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.”

On Malia And Sasha

“They’ve handled it so well. They are wonderful girls. They are smart and funny. But most importantly, they’re kind. They don’t have an attitude.”

On Being A Present Parent

“It’s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don’t just sit in the house and watch ‘SportsCenter’ all weekend long. That’s why so many children are growing up in front of the television. As fathers and parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them, and help them with their homework, and replace the video game or the remote control with a book once in awhile.”

On Embarrassing His Daughters

“Thanksgiving is a family holiday as much as a national one. So for the past seven years I’ve established another tradition: embarrassing my daughters with a corny-copia of dad jokes about turkeys.”

Obama delivers remarks with his daughters during the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House on Nov. 25, 2015. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
Obama delivers remarks with his daughters during the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House on Nov. 25, 2015. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)

On Malia’s High School Graduation

“My daughter leaving me is just breaking my heart. If there are any parents here, I hope you can give me some pointers on how not to cry too much at the ceremony and embarrass her.”

On The Little Things

“In the end, that’s what being a parent is all about — those precious moments with our children that fill us with pride and excitement for their future, the chances we have to set an example or offer a piece of advice, the opportunities to just be there and show them that we love them.”

On Family Dinner At The White House

“What I didn’t anticipate was the fact that I get to spend much more time with my kids once I’m president. Because now, I’m living above the store. I have a 30-second commute and so I just set up a rule: I’m having dinner with my crew at 6:30 every night unless I’m traveling ... And I’m going to be sitting there and I’m going to be entirely absorbed with stories about the annoying boys and the weird teacher and the drama in the cafeteria, reading Harry Potter and tucking them in and listening to whatever music they’re now listening to.”

On The Obligation Of Parenthood

“Every father bears a fundamental obligation to do right by their children.”

Obama and his daughters Sasha at a rally at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Missouri, Nov. 1, 2008.  (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND via Getty Images)
Obama and his daughters Sasha at a rally at JFK Stadium in Springfield, Missouri, Nov. 1, 2008. (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND via Getty Images)

On Becoming A Parent

“We had this nice stretch of about three years where she was doing her thing in her career and I was doing mine. Then we started trying to have kids. Took a while. Michelle had a couple miscarriages and we had to kind of work at it. When Malia was finally born, we were more than ready to be parents, right? ’Cause there had been this six-year stretch in which probably for about half of it, we had been trying, so there was no surprise to it.”

On The Best Metaphor For Kids

“Michelle figured out much earlier than I did that kids are like plants. They need sun, soil, water, but some of ’em are oaks, and some of ’em are pines, and some of ’em are willows, and some are bamboo. Those seeds of who they are and the pace and ways in which they’re gonna unfold are just uniquely theirs. I think I had a notion with Malia and Sasha, there was sort of a way of doing things — and what Michelle figured out earlier than I did, but I also ended up learning, was each one is just magical in their own ways. A branch is gonna sprout when it’s gonna sprout. A flower’s gonna pop when it’s gonna pop. You just roll with that unfolding, that unfurling of who they are, being comfortable just discovering them as opposed to feeling as if it’s a project.”

On The Tough Moments

“As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well — but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.”

On The Power Of Parenthood

“The love of being a father was not something I had to work on. It was physical, it was emotional, spiritual, you know. The attachment to my children I felt entirely and completely. I thought to myself: ‘OK. If the baseline is unconditional love, I’ve got that.’”

The Obamas in a Chicago hotel room as they wait for the U.S. Senate election returns on Nov. 2, 2004. (Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images)
The Obamas in a Chicago hotel room as they wait for the U.S. Senate election returns on Nov. 2, 2004. (Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images)

On Modeling Empathy

“[P]ass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy ― the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes; to look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in ‘us,’ that we forget about our obligations to one another. There’s a culture in our society that says remembering these obligations is somehow soft ― that we can’t show weakness, and so therefore we can’t show kindness. But our young boys and girls see that. They see when you are ignoring or mistreating your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home; or when you are distant; or when you are thinking only of yourself. And so it’s no surprise when we see that behavior in our schools or on our streets. That’s why we pass on the values of empathy and kindness to our children by living them. We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down – you’re strong by lifting them up. That’s our responsibility as fathers.”

On Raising Kids Who Love To Learn

“Michelle and I know that our first job, our first responsibility, is instilling a sense of learning, a sense of a love of learning in our kids. And so there are no shortcuts there; we have to do that job. And we can’t just blame teachers and schools if we’re not instilling that commitment, that dedication to learning, in our kids.”

On What His Daughters Mean To Him

“Malia and Sasha ... Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”

Also on HuffPost

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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