President Obama pledged a series of new initiatives to support responsible fatherhood Monday, but called on fathers to recognize that government cannot do what they can best do in the home.
In his annual Father's Day event, Obama urged fathers to mentor their own children and to reach out to those in the community who don't have strong parental or guardian support.
"I can't legislate fatherhood. I can't force anybody to love a child," Obama told a crowd gathered at a community center on the southeast side of Washington. "But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations."
The message echoed that of a noted Obama campaign speech from 2008, when he told absent fathers to stop making excuses and take economic and emotional responsibility for their children.
Last year at this time, Obama launched what he called a national conversation about fatherhood, sending Cabinet secretaries and other staffers around the country to hear from fathers and their families about the challenges they face. At Monday's event, Obama unveiled some of the ideas those trips fostered.
For one thing, the White House is kicking off a program to recruit mentors and give them support. People who sign up to take part in the Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative will get e-newsletters with tips and information about fatherhood and mentoring.
The NFL Players' Association is also getting involved by sponsoring local forums on parenting, and the national Parent Teacher Association will help promote participation.
Obama has also proposed a new Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund meant to expand programs around the country to strengthen families, and provided funding through the Department of Labor for transitional job programs for unemployed, noncustodial parents.
In addition, the White House will continue to host community forums on fatherhood and personal responsibility around the country.