Barack and Michelle Obama with Oprah at the White House
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O: I just read that 18 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of Americans overall still think you are Muslim. That's one in ten people. Can you tell me what it means to you to be a Christian?

BO: What it means is that I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that his example of caring and treating others as you want to be treated, and expressing loving compassion for all of God's children and this beautiful planet, are obligations I now have to take on myself. You asked me how I've changed. One way—I think it was Lincoln who said, If you weren't religious before you became president, this office will make you religious. Because, you know, we pray every day.

O: Do you involve God in your decisions in your presidency and if so, in what way?

BO: I'm in a constant conversation with God and that voice that is true about doing the right thing. And sometimes just giving strength when you're feeling low. There are going to be ups and downs in this job, like any other job. The interesting thing is, the questions I deal with are big and have worldwide impact.

O: Because, as you said to me in a previous interview, the little questions are already answered before they can get to you.

BO: The easy questions don't come to me. Just the tough ones. But the emotions that I go through during a day are probably the emotions a teacher goes through just trying to reach kids, and some days are good and some days are tough. They're the emotions that a mom might be going through when she's trying to work and look after her kids and hold everything together. Where your faith comes in, I think, is helping you get through the bad days, but also giving you some perspective on the good days and making sure that you're focused not just on yourself but on others.

O: All right, tell me something you like about your opponent, other than his love of family or country.

BO: Well, I really like his healthcare bill that he passed in Massachusetts. [All laugh.] It was great.

O: When we talked in 2009, you gave yourself a B+ as president. What would you give yourself now?

BO: You know, right now it's time for the American people to do the grading. But the one thing I always say is, I made a promise in 2008. I said I wasn't a perfect man—Michelle could testify to that—and I promised I wouldn't be a perfect president, but I'd wake up every single day working as hard as I could for the people who elected me, and that promise I've kept.

O: Do you have a personal mantra you live by?

BO: "Thank you for what I've received." This is the little prayer I say every night. "Thanks for all the blessings that I've been given, thank you for the joy of my family, and making me an instrument in your world." So the thing I'm thinking about every day is, how do I align my thoughts and my actions with what's right and what's true? And sometimes I fail, whether it's in personal relationships or my professional work—I'll screw up like everybody else.

O: [To Michelle] What does he do for you that makes you feel loved and appreciated?

MO: It's time—time and attention. Even when the waters are rough, he can just settle into our life together as a family. He can put as much attention into what I need on any given day or what I'm feeling. He knows who the girls' friends are and has the right questions to ask. He's keeping up with their assignments and their games and their worlds. Our lives are equally important. For him to be able to do that in the midst of all that he has to confront as president, particularly in these times, is something I cherish.

O: Do you do anything to embarrass your kids?

BO: You know, for my 50th birthday, we had a bunch of friends up at Camp David and they decided to do a little roast. So the girls came up, and they had a list, each of them, of "why I love my Daddy." And one of Malia's was "You're just the right amount of embarrassing. You know the line between embarrassing and funny, and you're always right on the line."

O: Wow, that's good.

BO: But the one that actually touched me most was when she said, "When I smile, you smile, and when I cry, you cry, and when I'm happy, you're happy."

O: That means you're doing a good job.

Next: The Obamas on their favorite songs, family dinners in the White House, and more...

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