Oprah: And the politicians themselves. That's why you didn't want to be one.
Barack: When I speak, the first thing I confront is people's cynicism. I understand it. It seems like politics is a business and not a mission. Some of our leaders have been long on rhetoric, short on substance—power is always trumping principle. That's why we withdraw into our private worlds and lives, and we think politics can't address the things that are most important to us. But the civil rights movement was a political movement. The movement to give women the vote was political. We are all connected as one people, and our mutual obligations have to express themselves not only in our families, not only in our churches, not only in our synagogues and mosques, but in our government, too.
Oprah: How do you actually get people to be more empathetic?
Barack: Your story about South Africa was terrific. Images, actions, and stories always speak the loudest. That's why I see my book as part of my politics. And I'll write more books. Policy has to be guided by facts, but to move people you have to tell stories.
Oprah: You think you'll have time to write more books?
Barack: I wrote the first one while I was getting married and running a voter registration project. I'll find time.
Oprah: There was a moment during the eighties, after I'd come to Chicago and my show had been national for a while, that I just felt like all the planets had lined up for me and it was my moment. Do you feel that for yourself?
Barack: There's been an interesting confluence of events over the last year that have Michelle and me looking at each other and talking.
Michelle: We're clear on the fact that we have to stay humble and prayerful. We have to dig down deep to our roots. When things come together, we know some of it is Barack, some of it is us—but a lot of it has nothing to do with either of us.
Oprah: When your opponents fall by the wayside based on scandal you didn't create…
Barack: It's an interesting moment. It makes me feel that much more determined and that much more responsible. It makes me think I've got to make sure that I don't…
Michelle: …screw it up.
Oprah: When I had the same moment, I literally went to my knees. You're either humble or you're not. If you were a jerk before the fame, you just become a jerk with a bigger spotlight. Whoever you are really comes through.
Barack: This platform is an enormous privilege. And it's not for me. It's for the people I meet in these little towns who have lost their jobs, don't have healthcare, are trying to figure out how to pay for their child's college education, are struggling and occasionally slipping into bitterness. It's not easy solving these problems. There are big global issues—the shift in the economy, the decline in manufacturing, the threat of terrorism, and complicated healthcare concerns. There will be conflicts and difficulties, and I don't pretend that everybody is going to agree with me all the time.
Michelle: I would want Barack as my senator. I know this man. He is brilliant, he is decent, he is everything you'd want.
We Hear You!