What I Learned From Meeting President Barack Obama
Here’s something you may not know about President Barack Obama: As extroverted as he may seem, he’s actually an introvert who relishes his alone time. You see, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently revealed in a CNN interview that during her experience working as deputy press secretary and deputy communications director for President Obama, despite being a phenomenal public speaker, he gained his energy by thinking, reading, and writing. To that end, I’m a huge fan of his and I’ve read all of his books. His writing is so eloquent. It’s a joy to read his work.
One of my most memorable conversations with President Obama happened during a Presidents Day weekend stay at the Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City, Florida. He was there enjoying golf with his friends, and Michelle and his daughters were on a ski trip during that time. He’s an incredible golfer and can often be found demonstrating his skills on the links.
I remember he talked about how he was pretty relaxed about his elder daughter, Malia, who was going on her first date — with Secret Service in tow. I was so taken aback by the love and admiration he has for his wife and children. You can tell how much he reveres them by the way he speaks about them. He really is a wonderful example of a doting dad and a caring father figure not only to his own children, but to the entire nation.
He has given some of the best quotes on fatherhood over the years, including leaving behind a better world for not just his children but all children. Whether coaching his daughter’s basketball team or reading them a story when they were little, he says his children have always inspired him. In turn, he has inspired us as a leader.
During one of my conversations with him, I remember he talked about how taxing the presidency could be on a person. He never took his role lightly and often spent moments in solitude to recharge from his many duties. He also talked about how the news cycle is 24/7 and it takes everything you’ve got to keep up. He mentioned it’s not a job for the faint of heart and said he doesn’t think President Ronald Reagan, whom he spoke well of, could’ve survived the relentless spin cycle of the modern-day news grind. Throughout his presidency, Obama often spoke about the perpetual challenges of keeping Americans informed in the age of being bombarded with social media. He remains Twitter’s most-followed user with more than 132 million followers.
I remember reading a quote from him in a CNBC article that has stuck with me. “Put yourself out there, get in the arena, take your shot,” he said. “It’s not gonna be perfect, you won’t get everything out of it that you want, but you will have more power than you understand if you just let it show and take some risks.”
I was also delighted to see him speak on a panel during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the nonpartisan Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, which I co-chaired. He’s a brilliant speaker and the event was hugely successful, raising $5.4 million for the think tank. I was very proud to be a part of that event and impressed with the meaningful conversations that took place that day. He also complimented the institute on the work it’s done and was excited to meet with some of the interns.
President Obama is truly a down-to-earth person with an admirable personality whom I’ve been proud to support over the years. He is passionate about his beliefs and ideas and embodies integrity. I think we all have much to learn from him.