Former president Bill Clinton was named Father of the Year by the nonprofit National Father's Day Council in Manhattan Tuesday.
Visibly moved as he accepted the award, Clinton said: "When Chelsea was born, I rushed her out to show her to my mother and everyone else who wanted to see the most beautiful child in the world. And from that day to this, I have believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and that being her father was the most important job I've ever had."
The National Father's Day Committee is part of the Father's Day / Mother's Day Council, Inc., a nonprofit membership association that recognizes and awards role model contemporary fathers and mothers.
Along with Clinton, this year's honorees included Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive of Macy's, and Major Jackson Drumgoole II of the U.S. Army.
As a surprise, Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, introduced her father and providing a glimpse into what it was like growing up in their household.
"When I was 3 and asked what my father did for a living, I said that he wrote speeches and talked on the telephone," she said. "That didn't elicit a response from my preschool class, so when I was 4 and asked the same question, I said he was the fry guy at McDonald's. When I got home, my parents did their best to look quite somber and disappointed because the teacher called and told them they need to talk to me about the importance of telling the truth. My parents made me own up to the fact that my father was the governor of Arkansas, not the fry guy at McDonald's. Needless to say, when I went to school the next day, my popularity plummeted among my fellow 4-year-olds."
Chelsea also talked about how proud she is of her father and how he's always been there for her.
"He was always home for dinner unless he was on another continent, and he helped me through my algebra homework and other, more important, decisions in life," she said. "He's set the bar very high for my husband as Mark and I have talked about having our own children. I know wherever we go in life, my father will always be there, waiting for me at the dinner table or on the other end of the phone. He's always provided me a safe place to land and a hard place from which to launch. I am grateful that he is my dad. Everyday he is ... my dad ... and I don't need an award to tell me that he is the best that I could have ever hoped for."
During his speech, Clinton recalled the day Chelsea was born.
"On the night she was born, I came home from Washington, D.C., from a governor's conference," he said. "Hillary's water broke 15 minutes later, so I rushed her to the hospital. We'd been to Lamaze classes and I had all my notes and I was gathering all the stuff up. When we got there, they said the baby is breech, we're going to have to do a Caesarean section. They said we don't allow fathers in the operating room. I said, 'My wife is the healthiest person on the planet, has never sent a single night in a hospital as a patient. If you send her in that room without me, I think you're making a big mistake. I want to see my daughter born, it will be good for you.' So they let me go in and hold Hillary's hand. I saw Chelsea come out, and it changed the hospital policy for allowing fathers into the delivery room when surgery was required."
He also recounted a fond memory he had of Chelsea growing up.
"The sole argument we had when she was in high school, the subject in which I don't even remember, I said to her 'As long as you are in this house, being president is my second most important job.' It was a great honor to be her father when she was young and it's a great honor now that she knows more than I do about everything -- to be her father and cheerleader."
After leaving the White House, Clinton established the Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies and protect the environment. He's also served as the top United Nations envoy for the Indian Ocean tsunami recovery effort and as the UN special envoy to Haiti.
"I spend most of my time now trying to help people live better lives around the world.," he said. "But sometimes people who do the work we do can get a little arrogant. There are happy people all over the world, even in the poorest countries, and what makes them the happiest is if they have a coherent family life. If fathers can be fathers, and mothers can be mothers, and children can enjoy the basic wonders of childhood."
Proceeds of the luncheon will benefit the U.S. programs of Save the Children, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to making lasting positive change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world.
In closing, Clinton reflected on his most rewarding job -- being a father.
"I could think of a million other people who are equally or more deserving of this award, but for whatever it's worth, you could never find anyone happier because I did think -- and I do believe -- [being a dad] was my most important job. Seeing my daughter still makes me happier than anything else in the world."