CHICAGO, IL --Barack Obama delivered a passionate speech on fatherhood today at a south side African American church, where he called on men to take greater responsibility for their families. He spoke from the pulpit at the Apostolic Church of God, while his wife and two daughters sat with parishioners.
"We need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn't just end at conception. That doesn't make you a father," Obama said to applause and hoots from the parishioners, "What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child- any fool can have a child. That's doesn't make you father. It's the courage to raise a child that makes you a father."
Obama, whose father abandoned him when he was two years old, said he understands the difficulties of growing up in a single parent home. He added that his father's absence has taught him how to be a better parent to his two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
"I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle, that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children; that if I could give them anything, I would give them that rock, that foundation, on which to build their lives."
He called on parents to instill an "ethic of excellence" in their children, expecting them to strive for the high goals. While recalling a brief speech that he had given to a graduating class of eighth grade girls, Obama said he was surprised by all the "pomp and circumstance" of the ceremony.
"It's just eighth grade," he said and later added, "an eighth-grade education doesn't cut it today. Let's give them a handshake and tell them to get their butts back in the library."
He noted that many African Americans didn't support him initially because they didn't believe that a black man could be elected president. "What was interesting was how many people would come up to me and say 'oh Barack, we love you man, we're rooting for you but we just don't think that a black man can be elected president," Obama recalled.
"I mean we had already defeated ourselves before we even started. We didn't set high enough expectations for ourselves, we believed that somebody else can do it but we can't do it. And that filters down to our children."
Obama, who left Trinity United Church almost a month ago, attended the Apostolic Church of God today because of his close relationship to former pastor, Bishop Arthur Brazier. It is the also one of the largest African American churches in Chicago.