Photo: Rob Howard
Although we have seen each other on several occasions since, the last time I interviewed the president for O was all the way back in 2004. Back then, Barack Obama was just a state senator from Illinois, but he'd lit up that year's Democratic National Convention with a brilliant, galvanizing speech that really put him on the political map. Suddenly, the hot topic was whether he might be presidential material.
Cut to July 2012 and I'm walking into the stately Green Room at the White House for a sit-down interview with the president and First Lady of the United States. You could almost see the weight of the job resting on his shoulders as he strolled past the silk-covered walls and gilt-framed oil paintings, yet he still had that easy positivity and casual flair, with his suit jacket hooked on his index finger, over his shoulder. (He may be the leader of the free world, but Barack Obama was down-to-earth enough to help move a White House coffee table for the photographer.) Michelle Obama, meanwhile, had a poise and a bearing that emanated "First Lady"—until the president jokingly told her she had a little something stuck in her teeth.
Before the interview, we got caught up; I told the president about the wonderful book I was reading (Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers) and he told me about the best movie he'd seen in three years (Beasts of the Southern Wild). There was a plate of chocolate chip cookies between us, but with healthy eating never far from her mind, Michelle suggested to an aide that it be replaced with a bowl of apples. That accomplished, we dove in.
Next: Read Oprah's full interview with the Obamas