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Obama talks about fatherhood's importance

Calling the work of raising children "the most important job in this country," President Obama today marked Father's Day by announcing a nationwide fatherhood and mentoring initiative aimed at helping fathers fulfill their responsibilities as parents.

Among other things, the new initiative will support programs offering job training, parent-skills classes, domestic violence prevention, transitional jobs initiatives for ex-offenders, and other methods to engage fathers in their children's lives.

"Here's the key message I think all of us want to send today to fathers all across the country: Our children don't need us to be superheroes; they don't need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present; they need us to show up and give it our best shot no matter what else is going on in our lives," Obama told the crowd at THEARC, a non-profit organization for underserved youth and adults. "They need us to show them -- not just with words, but with deeds -- that they, those kids, are always our first priority."

Obama, whose own father left his family when he was just two years old, has often spoken about the importance of parental responsibility in helping kids to learn and grow and to stay out of trouble.

"Over the course of my life, I've been an attorney; I've been a professor; I've been a state senator; I've been a U.S. senator; and I currently am serving as president of the United States. But I can say without hesitation that the most challenging, most fulfilling, most important job I will have during my time on this earth is to be Sasha and Malia's dad," he said to applause. "You don't need a fancy degree for that. You don't need a lot of money for that. No matter what doubts we may feel, what difficulties we may face, we all have to remember being a father is not just an obligation and a responsibility. It is a privilege and a blessing."

Later in the afternoon, the president was set to host a mentoring barbecue on the South Lawn for 150 area youth, with workshops led by (among others) artists, athletes, public servants, and scientists.