Politics aside: President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney put premium on being good dads

Published: Friday, Sept. 7 2012 1:57 p.m. MDT

The Washington Post noted that "Obama's special interest in fatherhood has been a boon for groups that support fathers and have been working for years without much attention. 'His leadership and using the bully pulpit has been important,' said Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, which was founded in 1994 and recently contracted with the federal government to produce public service announcements promoting fatherhood."

In a weekly address last summer, the president called fatherhood "my hardest, but always my most rewarding job," and talked about his own father, who abandoned the family when he was 2 years old. It is, as quoted by ABC News, "why I've tried so hard to be a good dad for my own children.”

“Malia and Sasha may live in the White House these days," he said, "but Michelle and I still make sure they finish their schoolwork, do their chores and walk the dog.”

According to ABC's Michael James, Obama said children most need unconditional love, time and structure from their parents. And he said Obama had become an assistant coach to his daughter Sasha's basketball team.

This summer, the president's fatherhood initiative did an unusual outreach, talking to men about their responsibilities to their families during visits to a number of barbershops nationwide, according to The Root.

Mitt Romney:

"People, not government, are the source of America's strength," Romney asserted to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in 2007. "There is no place that is more important to the future strength of America than the American home. The work that goes on within the walls of a home is the most important work that is ever done in America. And if we want to strengthen America, we need to strengthen the American family."

"Certainly a big part of the Mitt Romney story is his family," Russ Schriefer, a senior Romney campaign strategist, told the New York Times recently. "One of the real organizing principles of his life is his relationship with Ann and with the boys."

Romney's sons have all taken an active role in both of his campaigns for president, speaking more openly and warmly about Romney as a family man than the candidate himself, who has largely focused on the actions he would take should he win the election.

The candidate's sons have spoken often and lovingly of their father, such as Tagg Romney's comment, "If I could be half the man my dad is, I would be very happy."

He told the Times that "You knew your grandfather was a man of great values and principles, you knew that your dad was the same way. There was nothing said, but you just knew that it was important that you were a good person and treated other people with respect."

Tagg Romney noted that his father worked hard to keep his work and family life separate and when he got home at night, he was father, not businessman.

Times writers Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Ashley Parker wrote: "In the Romney home, Saturdays were for chores; Mr. Romney grew up weeding his father's garden and his own children spent Saturday mornings scrubbing floors, doing yard work or helping their mother clean bathrooms, though the family could have easily hired help.

"Whether it was digging a hole and filling it back in the next week, he'd find stuff to keep us busy," they quoted Josh Romney. "But he'd work right along next to us and then when he'd say, 'You can leave,' he'd still be out there and you'd be inside eating lunch and watching your dad outside working and you'd feel guilty."

According to the Times, the Romneys often hosted cookouts and church-related activities at their home in Massachusetts. It was, noted a friend of Craig Romney's, "our home base."

Romney himself has often spoken of his love and admiration for his own father George Romney who ran for president in 1968 and was a former governor of Michigan. Several stories reported that George Romney advised Mitt to raise his children before entering politics and make his own living so he could be his own man and be not be "beholden to anything other than principle," the article said.

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