Tales from the Trail

Obama says without a father, he grew up faster

September 8, 2009

President Barack Obama opened up to 9th graders at Wakefield High School about what it was like growing up without a father — it forced him to grow up faster, but made him stronger over time.

You’ll recall that his Kenyan father separated from his mother when Obama
was 2 years old and living in Hawaii. Obama said in his book, “Dreams for My Father,” he tried to figure out what his father was like.

Obama met with a group of 9th graders before giving a speech at the Virginia high school and a student asked him about how his education might have been different if his father had been around.

In the president’s words:

OBAMA/“He was a very, very smart man, but he was sort of arrogant and kind of overbearing, and he had his own problems and his own issues. So my mother always used to say that if he had been around, I probably would have been having a lot of arguments with him all the time.”

“I think that I was lucky, though, that my mother always — she never spoke badly about him, which I think since I was a boy, knowing that even if your dad wasn’t around, that you still were hearing good things about him I think probably improved my own self-confidence.”

“When I look back on my life, I think that — Michelle’s dad was around, and Arne I think knew him. Just a great guy. Wonderful, wonderful man. And he actually had multiple sclerosis, so he had to walk with canes, but went to every basketball game that my brother-in-law played in, was there for every dance recital Michelle was in, was just a great family man. And when I look at her dad, I say to myself, boy, that would be nice to have somebody like that that you could count on who was always there for you.”

“On the other hand, I think that not having a dad in some ways forced me to grow up faster. It meant that I made more mistakes because I didn’t have somebody to tell me, here’s how you do this or here’s how you do that. But on the other hand, I had to, I think, raise myself a little bit more. I had to be more supportive of my mother because I knew how hard she was working. And so, in some ways, maybe it made me stronger over time, just like it may be making you stronger over time.”

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/