Barack Obama: I don't think I'm all that different, actually. The things that led me to run for office—trying to figure out how we create an economy where everybody's got a fair shot and if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams—I'm still passionate about. That's still what drives me every single day. My abiding faith in the American people is undiminished. I think that being in this office has made me even more appreciative of my family in ways that I didn't think I could be. I already loved them so much, but when you're under all these pressures, to come home every single night—at least when I'm in town—and have Michelle and the girls there, and draw joy from them... They are my balance and they keep me grounded, and that's truer now than it's ever been.
O: The moment you see them, does everything change and lift?
BO: They just give me perspective. We have dinner at 6:30 every night, especially during the school year, although they're getting old enough now where during the summers they're, like, "See ya." They give me the long view, and whatever fussing I've been dealing with with Congress, suddenly Malia's breaking it down, telling me kids are thinking about this issue or that issue....
Michelle Obama: Sometimes I don't even know what he's gone through over the course of the day until after dinner, after Bo's been walked and we sit down and I listen and I think, "Man, he's been dealing with all that." Because when he walks in the door every night, it's like the light goes on in him and he is all focused on us.
O: So you can compartmentalize?
MO: Oh, he's very good at that.
O: Other changes since four years ago?
BO: There's no doubt that I'm a better president now than when I first took office. This is not a job where there's a manual, and over time you get a better sense of what's important, what's not, how to see around corners and anticipate problems, as opposed to just managing problems once they've arrived.
O: So what have the past four years taught you about yourself that you didn't know?
BO: They reinforced my belief that when the stakes are very high, I can clear my mind and make hard decisions. And that I'm resilient. That I tend to not get too high or too low but to stay steady, and that's helpful in this job.
O: Was the decision to go after Osama bin Laden one of those high-stakes moments?
BO: That's an example of being able to maintain clarity and push aside the noise and anxieties that come with a big decision so you're looking at it pretty squarely.
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