Working for President Obama is an incredible privilege, but my greatest honor is to be the proud father of three beautiful children. This week, I was reminded again of the enormous joy of fatherhood as I watched my oldest son graduate from high school. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. My wife, our six-year-old daughter, and I sat in the audience, feeling so blessed and so happy to witness his accomplishment. My son: the graduate. He’s never looked better, and I’ve never been prouder.
Like many other parents who work extremely demanding jobs, I know that special moments like graduations, Saturday morning soccer games, and dance recitals are so precious. And it’s amazing how those moments slip by so quickly. As I watched the graduation ceremony, it seemed like it was just yesterday that I held my eldest son in my arms for the first time. I didn’t know where his little life would lead, but I knew that I would love him unconditionally and try my hardest to walk him through those tough life lessons, as my mom and my adopted dad did for me.
President Obama knows the vital role that fathers play in the lives of our children. As the father of two beautiful young girls and as a son growing up without the presence of his father, the president recognizes that the most important, most challenging, and most fulfilling job he’ll ever have is to be Sasha and Malia’s dad.
President Obama reminds us that we all have a stake in forging stronger bonds between fathers and their children. Children don’t need us to be superheroes; they just need us to be active in their lives, to love them, and to set a good example.
That’s why for the past three years, President Obama has led the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, a multi-year effort to help dads connect to their families and to raise awareness about responsible fatherhood. We also recently released Promoting Fatherhood, a report that looks back on what we’ve accomplished to promote fatherhood, and looks forward on how we can build on that foundation.
In that spirit, President Obama’s Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse are excited to kick off the “Fatherhood Buzz.” It’s a program that will work with barbershops to connect dads with local resources to help build stronger families. Every couple months, dads and their barbers participating in the initiative will get a different “buzz” topic to discuss at the barbershop.
Today, at this make-or-break moment for working Americans, economic stability and getting good jobs are at the top of our priority list. So, this quarter, the “buzz” is all about financial literacy and job training. Because it’s up to us to work hard to secure our families and plan for the future, for us and for our kids.
At the end of the day, dads have a responsibility to give parenting our best effort. That means showing up and making the right decisions each day to be a good father. Even if you weren’t the best dad in the past, today is a new day and the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative is just one of the many programs out there that can help.
I’m certainly not the perfect father. I’ve missed quite a few dinners and special occasions because of work, but my family is always my top priority. When I truly reflect on all that I have done in my life, nothing can compare to the satisfaction I feel when I spend time with my 15-year-old autistic son at the park, read a bedtime story to my little girl, or watching my oldest son prepare to go to college. That pride is a feeling that many dads know well, and it’s enough to keep you going through all the tough times that life may bring.
And let’s remember that parenting can be a great partnership. So, in honor of my beautiful and remarkable wife, I can’t think of a better gift this Father’s Day than the love and support she has given me, along with my three amazing children-I can’t thank them enough.
Happy Father’s Day.
Michael Strautmanis is Deputy Assistant to President Obama and Counselor for Strategic engagement to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Strautmanis is also a proud dad of three children and celebrates his 20th wedding anniversary in August.