January 20 will mark one year since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the day he was sworn into office and we watched our favorite First Family step out of public view to go on to seemingly live their best lives without us. That disappointing day may have come and gone, but the mere sight or mention of Barack and Michelle Obama since then has brought a comforting sense of nostalgia and a reminder of the good ol’ days. But does Barack miss being in charge as much as we miss him?
Not necessarily. But in a special interview with Prince Harry for BBC Radio 4, he said there are certain aspects of the job that he misses quite a bit.
“Well, I have to say because we were both in traffic today, the fact that I didn’t used to experience traffic,” he joked. “I used to cause traffic, much to the consternation of any place I was visiting.”
“You know, I miss my team. There’s a camaraderie and an intensity to the work. Everything you do every day, you know it can affect millions or billions of people in some cases. And to have really smart, focused people who are there for the right reasons and who over time have built up trust and have learned to support each other and rely on each other, I miss that,” he continued. “I miss the work itself because it was fascinating. And rewarding. And you knew that even if the politics of a certain issue didn’t always work out well, that by doing a good job, there was somebody out there, maybe a mother who was worried about a sick child who now had a doctor, or your ability to protect some people from someone who would do them harm. That kind of day-to-day satisfaction is hard to match.”
And while he kept his poker face on during inauguration day, Barack, who didn’t mention Trump’s name, wasn’t focused on who was set to be commander-in-chief. Instead, his mind was on his family and the fact that they’d managed to come out on the other side of two presidential terms in one piece.
“The first thing that went through my mind, sitting across from Michelle, was how thankful I was that she had been my partner through that whole process,” he said. “She is spectacular, funny, warm person. She is not someone who was naturally inclined to politics, so in some ways, despite the fact that she was as good of a First Lady that there’s ever been, she did this largely in support of my decision to run. And for us to come out of that intact, that our marriage was strong, we’re still each other’s best friends, our daughters turning into amazing young women, the sense that there was completion. We had done the work in a way that preserved our integrity and left us whole. We hadn’t fundamentally changed I think was the satisfying feeling that was mixed with all the work that was still undone and concerns about how the country moves forward. But overall, there was a serenity there, more than I would have expected.”
When asked if that serenity was relief by Prince Harry, Barack said it was more like a sense of being content.
“Relief probably isn’t the right phrase because relief indicates some sense that ‘I can’t wait until this thing is finished,’” he said. “But there was a sense that we’d run a good race. One of the metaphors I used for the presidency is that you are a relay runner. There is a sense in any position of leadership that you by yourself do certain things and then it’s over. But I always viewed it as taking the baton from a whole range of people who had come before me. Some who had been heroic. Some of whom had screwed up. But wherever you were in the race, if you ran hard, if you did your best and you were then able to pass that baton off successfully, and the country was better off and the world was a little bit better off, then when you got there, you could take some pride in that. I think we were able to do that.”