Barack and Michelle Obama: The Full Interview
Handling the Pressure
LHJ: One of the things you talk about in the book is that you learned growing up, "Never let them see you sweat." "Always act confident." Are you more daunted by the prospect of being the leader of the free world than you let on?
Barack Obama: I think if you were not occasionally jolted awake at three in the morning thinking about the magnitude of the work that has to be done, then you probably shouldn't be president. The thing that keeps me awake at night is not the prospect of losing. It's the prospect of winning and governing.
There are a couple of things that allow me, though, to stay steady in that process. One is my faith. God will hopefully keep us -- meaning, this country and this world -- moving in a better direction. And so I pray on that. The second thing is my family. The third thing, though, is a real belief that no one person moves this country forward, and no one person moves this country backwards. It requires a lot of citizens to get behind something, citizens who'll hold me accountable if I make a mistake. That gives me more confidence that this is a team effort, and not just me out there by my lonesome.
LHJ: Mrs. Obama, how can you tell when your husband is really stressed?
Michelle Obama: When he is writing small notes late at night. When he's really sort of brooding about something, it's late at night, and there's a lot of little note-writing going on. That's when I know, "What happened? What's going on?"
LHJ: Mrs. Obama, can you tell us a personal story about your husband that demonstrates to you that he has the grace and grit to do this job?
Michelle Obama: I don't think there's one story. I think it's the man I've seen him be over the course of our life together. He's consistent with his love and his support. And his great desire to be every day a better father. It touches me when our girls touch him. Whether it's with a story or a word. You can see it in his face. That's the leader I want: somebody who is so moved by their own children, that they'll go out there and fight for everyone else's.
LHJ: And what is your daughters' sense of their own race in the world today?
Michelle Obama: They're living in a family where they've got an African-American grandmother, and an Indonesian aunt. They've got a Chinese-American cousin. They've got African-American cousins. They've got a multiracial cousin in Africa who's African and English. The in-laws of our in-laws who are Chinese-Canadian are part of their families. Their world is bigger.