Obama and Biden at the fatherhood townhall, June 2009
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think this is really important to emphasize -- 23 percent of young people are growing up without fathers. Now, in the African American community, it's close to 50 percent, maybe a little over, depending on the statistics that you look at. So there is a real crisis going on the African American community on this issue, but it is a more pervasive issue.
And I just went to a wonderful organization called Year Up that has young people who are getting trained after high school, most of them, on specific job-training skills, computer skills, but also how to conduct themselves in an office and write an email, et cetera. And it was wonderful talking to these young people. But one of the things I said specifically to the young men is that you can't use anything as an excuse not to be involved with your children. Because kids -- they won't judge you based on whether you're wealthy or poor. They will judge you if you are abusive to their mother. They will judge you in terms of you not showing up when they need you. That's what makes a difference.
And kids will respect their fathers if their fathers are showing kindness and are modeling -- that they're working hard and trying to do what's right for their families. And kids will understand that sometimes families fall on hard times. They get that. Joe Biden is here -- and, Joe, actually, I want to talk to you, because you had a terrific relationship with your dad, but there was a time where your dad fell on some hard times, and yet you still talk about him all the time as the most important guiding role model in your life.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. President, I think it's great what you're doing, by the way. This is a big deal. Folks, you know, the President said sometimes fathers make mistakes, and I've made my share. But one thing my father told me -- there's a mistake a father should never make, and that is communicating to his child there's anything other than total unconditional love. If there's total unconditional love -- that includes discipline -- but if there's total unconditional love, it doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, whether or not you're a real smart dad or you're not such a smart dad, whether you're handsome or you're not so -- it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Kids need love.