RD Interview: President Barack Obama

During a relaxed conversation with Reader’s Digest editor Liz Vaccariello, the president opens up about family, faith—and his favorite word.

RD Interview: President Barack ObamaCourtesy Pete Souza/The White House
Reader’s Digest: You write a book about your first term as president. What’s the title?

President Obama: Wow! It always takes me a long time to think of [book] titles. It’s just like thinking of our daughters’ names. I remember we were in the hospital for the first 48 hours trying to figure out, All right, what are we gonna call this one? I think the theme of my first term would have to do with persistence …Somehow I think the title would speak to just sticking with it.

RD: You said you made a mistake early in your presidency by not focusing enough on storytelling. What story would you tell now?

Obama: What I would’ve done better was to prepare the American people for the challenges we are going to be facing, the climbing out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Had I expressed to the American people that we are going to solve these problems, but it’s going to take time … Trying to find that balance between projecting confidence but also letting people know this is gonna be a process. It’s not going to happen instantaneously.

RD: Please finish this sentence for me: “The world needs the next president to …”

Obama: … grow the American economy. Because when the American economy is growing, the world economy is growing along with it.

RD: Let’s talk about family. What did you say to Sasha and Malia the night that Osama bin Laden was killed?

Obama: They knew enough about bin Laden and 9/11, even though Sasha was three months old when it happened. I was able to explain to them that the person who planned 9/11 was killed by our forces. I think what was most important was to explain to them what that meant for young people like them who had lost mothers and fathers in the Twin Towers or in the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania. Describing that for Malia and Sasha makes it personal. It made them understand what it would mean for them to lose a parent in a terrible way like that.

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