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President Barack Obama on Why He Wants to Be a Good Dad

President Barack Obama has many major undertakings to juggle as he balances leading the nation with being a great father to his daughters, Malia and Sasha. And while President Obama himself will admit that, at times, his job in the Oval Office overtakes his job as a parent, he reveals in a new Father’s Day essay penned for PEOPLE why his own father’s absence during his childhood inspires him to be a better father for his daughters.

On June 8, PEOPLE released a preview of the essay, in which President Obama discusses the memories of his absentee father, first lady Michelle Obama’s notable role in parenting their children, and his undying drive to be present in their daughters’ lives.

“I grew up without a father around. I have certain memories of him taking me to my first jazz concert and giving me my first basketball as a Christmas present. But he left when I was two years old.

“And even though my sister and I were lucky enough to be raised by a wonderful mother and caring grandparents, I always felt his absence and wondered what it would have been like if he had been a greater presence in my life. I still do. It is perhaps for this reason that fatherhood is so important to me, and why I’ve tried so hard to be there for my own children.

“‘That’s not to say I’ve always been a perfect dad. I haven’t. When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world.
But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents.

Black fathers don’t garner much public praise for their roles in their children’s lives, so it’s nice to see that President Obama is providing proof as to why black men are more than deserving of accolades — and not  just on Father’s Day.

You can read the full essay in the latest issue of PEOPLE, which is on newsstands now.

nicholas robinson