Barack Obama photo

Interview with Kate Bolduan of CNN's "New Day"

June 23, 2014

BOLDUAN: [I asked the president how he plans to get the country and the Congress to focus on Working Families]

THE PRESIDENT: The country's already focused on family issues. Every single day, there are conversations around the kitchen table where people are trying to figure out, you know what, this childcare is costing so much. I'm not sure that we're going to be able to make our mortgage at the end of the month. There are folks who are saying, you know, little Johnny is sick but if I don't show up at my job, because I don't have paid family leave, we're not going to be able to pay the electricity bill.

And so the goal for our Working Families Summit on Monday is to lift up a conversation that everybody's already having individually and letting people know you're not alone out here. And so what we want to do is to lift up best practices, show that for companies who are offering paid family leave, who are offering flexibility, their workers are more productive, more loyal, there's lower turnover and, ultimately, they're going to be more profitable. I'm going to be taking some action, a presidential memorandum, directing every federal agency to be very clear to their employees that it is my view that offering flexibility where possible is the right thing to do. We don't want people having to choose between family and work when you've got an emergency situation.

BOLDUAN: You know this, but you talk to 10 different people, you're going to get 10 different challenges that they face in trying to succeed at the work and life balance, to succeed at both. What are the three things that you would like to see companies, employers, businesses do to make it work, because you know those priorities don't always align?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. There are some things that we know will make a difference in people's lives. Paid family leave; we're the only advanced country on earth that doesn't have it. It doesn't make any sense. You know, this is not just a women's issue. One of the most precious memories that I'll ever have is when my first daughter, Malia, was born, I was lucky enough that my schedule allowed me to take that first month off. And you know, staying up at 2:00 in the morning and feeding her and burping her and, you know, creates a bond that is irreplaceable. And a lot of companies are already doing it and it's working. And Michelle and I have talked about this. You know, when we knew that employers had our backs and were willing to give us flexibility to look after family, that made us want to work harder for that employer, even if it meant taking work home with us. So we have unpaid family leave right now but for a whole lot of families it means they can't use it because they just can't afford it.

Number two, workplace flexibility. If I've got a parent teacher conference -- you know, we always say that we want parents involved in our kids' education. There are millions of families out there who can't even imagine taking time off to go to a parent teacher's conference.

And then the third thing is the issue of childcare. You know, we don't do a very good job providing high-quality, affordable childcare and there are a lot of countries, a lot of our competitors do it. That means that it's a lot easier for women to be in the workforce and not have to make choices that ultimately mean that they're, in some cases, getting paid less or having less opportunities.

I should add on that list equal pay for equal work. We've done some things administratively on that front. I always say that shouldn't be a women's issue because I always wanted Michelle to make sure that she was getting paid fairly because when she brought her paycheck home that went into the overall pot to help us pay our bills.

BOLDUAN: You know, Republicans, they will be critical of some of the initiatives you try to --

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- I think that's fair to say.

BOLDUAN: But it is no secret --


BOLDUAN: It's no secret that Democrats' midterm election strategy is to pitch to women, to get the women to come out to vote. They've said that. Is this all politics?

THE PRESIDENT: I was raised by a single mom who had to work, go to school, raise two kids. I didn't come from a wealthy family. We were helped by my grandparents and the primary breadwinner there was my grandma, who never got a college education but worked her way up from a secretary to being a vice president at a bank, but also hit a glass ceiling. I've got a strong, successful wife, who I remember being reduced to tears sometimes because she couldn't figure out how to juggle everything that she was doing. And I've got two daughters that I care about more than anything in the world. And so this is personal for me and I think it's personal for a lot of people. This is not just a women's issue. This is a middle class issue and an American issue. I'd welcome a bipartisan effort, with ideas coming from the private sector and from Republicans and from Democrats and, you know, from non-profits and faith community about how we make sure that we're supporting families and reducing their stress, and that's what this Monday's summit is all about.

BOLDUAN: Mr. President, we need to wrap up but since she has been kicking throughout our entire interview, the little miss would probably want to know if you have any best advice for first-time parents, this one included.

THE PRESIDENT: You know, you're going to do great. Michelle and I talk about this. Kids are more resilient than you realize. You give them unconditional love and then you give them some structure and some rules and they usually turn out really, really well and they'll bring you a lot of joy. But you know, we were pretty big believers in as early as -- as soon as they could understand words, you start giving them some assignments; nap, eat your peas, you know, pick up the toys off the floor, and you know, by the time they're 16 they turn out pretty good, although they don't always give you as much time with them as you want.

BOLDUAN: Yours have turned out pretty well.

Thank you, Mr. President.


BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.


Barack Obama, Interview with Kate Bolduan of CNN's "New Day" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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