At this point, it’s fair to say that Barack Obama was one of the most influential American presidents. From his time in the White House to the present day, there has been a simple truth: Obama speaks, and everybody else leans forward to listen.
Part of Obama’s charm is that he speaks with authority about things he knows well. One of those topics is, of course, family. After all, Obama has had the unique challenge of raising two little girls and keeping his spouse happy, all while leading the free world!
So, what does this former president have to say about family? Keep reading to discover the answer!
Staying involved with family
Over the years, Barack Obama had much to say about being a parent. And one of his most consistent messages is that parents need to make the time and stay more involved with their children.
As reported by the New York Times, Obama elaborated on this point during a 2008 Father’s Day speech. “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,” he said. “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 a while.”
In the context of the speech, “once in a while” is very significant. It’s not about embracing one extreme or another with our children, but finding a healthy balance.
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Parents must also be teachers
Education is a central element of our children’s lives. As such, many parents have had strong feelings about the role their children’s teachers play in their children’s lives. However, in a 2011 speech, Barack Obama was very clear about the fact that every parent must also be a teacher as well.
“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,” he said. “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.”
It’s not always easy to hear, but this is a sobering reminder that helping our children learn as much as possible will always be a collaborative effort between parents, teachers, and the larger community.
Being a father who is also a real man
As reported by Politico, Barack Obama didn’t hold back during his 2008 Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago. “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — it’s the courage to raise one.”
It’s not a very new concept, but it’s nice to see a sitting president highlight the important role that fathers have in children’s lives. And it’s charming to see someone not hold back about the fact that running away from the major responsibility of raising a child means that person is not a “man” at all.
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Treating your spouse right
It’s basically common sense that a married person needs to treat their spouse right. However, Obama went the extra mile and detailed how the way we treat our spouses also affects our children, too.
The Hill reports that Obama dropped a real truth bomb about this in his 2011 appearance on The Late Late Show. “The second best piece of advice I’ve got for fathers of girls is not only love them unconditionally, but treat their moms great,” he said. “Your daughters are watching how their mom’s being treated. So if they see that you love and respect and support their mom, then when they get older that’s what they’re going to expect for themselves. And that’s worked out pretty well for me.”
While it’s always been a bit of tongue-in-cheek advice, it looks like Obama discovered “happy wife, happy life” is true, especially when it comes to raising children.
How children help you maintain your perspective
You’d think it would be pretty easy for the President of the United States to get a big head about his power and his accomplishments. However, an amused Barack Obama once pointed out how good his children were at keeping him humble and putting things in perspective.
As reported by The New York Times, Obama opened up about this during his acceptance speech after he won the Nobel Peace Prize. “After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, ‘Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday.’ And then Sasha added, ‘Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.’ So it’s — it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.”
In young Malia’s eyes, this historic accomplishment was no more or less important than an extended weekend and the family dog’s birthday. And this is enough to bring any parent back down to earth if they are ever feeling egotistical!
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On the scariest moment of his life
One thing Barack Obama has made clear over the years is that he was always a father first and a president second. Nonetheless, many are still shocked when he describes the scariest moment of his life.
Politico reports that Obama got very real, discussing every parent’s nightmare: dealing with a sick child. “People ask me what was the hardest time in my life — they ask, well what about during the debt ceiling debate and this and that and the other thing,” he said. “Sasha got meningitis when she was 3 months old. I still remember going to the hospital together, and they had to give her a spinal tap. Your world narrows to this very small point. … There’s one thing you care about, and you don’t care about anything else.”
Such moments are unforgettably scary. However, Obama’s honesty about this moment reveals his ultimate truth about family: they always come first, and you can’t focus on anything else if you’re worried about your spouse or children’s safety.