“I think I’ll take time for like two questions,” Barack Obama said, meeting students at the Maryland middle school where a few minutes earlier he unveiled his 2012 budget. “So anybody have any questions,” he asked. “All right, this young man right here. He had his hand up right away.”
“What does it feel like to be President?”
The first question — what every American child wants to know. Because it’s an honor they all daydream about sometime – together with others in playgrounds and class or alone with their thoughts.
Showing that he understood, Barack Obama repeated the first student’s question and accentuated the negative in beginning his reply to what every child in school wants to hear.
What does it feel like to be the President? You know, some days – some days you’re burdened by some really tough decisions. Some of you may have family members who are in Afghanistan, for example. And I’m the Commander-in-Chief, and so I’m responsible for sending those young men and women over, who are doing an amazing job. Some of them get hurt. Some of them get killed. And so you feel a responsibility that is profound about making that decision. Even though you think it’s the best thing to do for the country, it’s one that carries an unbelievable cost.
After telling the student that what made him feel good was his health-spending bill, he emphasized how being president got on his nerves.
There are days where you feel really excited because something that you got done you know is helping somebody. So when we passed the health care bill that we passed — and it was controversial. It was a lot of work. It was — and some people still don’t like it. But I would get letters from people who said, my kid couldn’t get insurance before and now I feel secure because they’re able to get health insurance so that when they get sick they’re able to get health care. So that makes you feel good.
Every day I feel proud and privileged to have the chance to work in this office. But I’ll be honest with you. There are certain parts of the job that are kind of tough, like I’m kind of in this bubble. I can’t go anywhere, I can’t just — if I want to just go to the corner drugstore and buy some shaving cream or something — (laughter) — or if I just feel like taking a walk with Bo — like I can’t do anything spontaneous. And that kind of gets on your nerves.
And the other thing is people know who you are everywhere — obviously. (Laughter.) So you have to — you always have to like shave and comb your hair and — (laughter) — you can’t just roll out of bed and be out there. (Laughter.) So that kind of stuff can be a little tough.
Obama continued. “Young lady right here,” he said, choosing the lucky student who would ask the second and final question of a day all the students and staff at the middle school will likely remember for the rest of their lives.
“Is there a lot of stress in,” she started.
“Stand up,” said Obama, interrupting the child with the bark of a command from the president. “I’m sorry. What’s your name?”
He repeated her name and told her to go on. “So what were you saying?”
She went on as told. “Is there like a lot of stress when you…”
But Obama interrupted her again. “Like when I’m working on the economy or something?”
The girl completed her question, exactly how the president told her. “…when you’re working on the economy?”
Instead of answering his question about the economy, Barack Obama – tired and out of touch – finished his time with the students by emphasizing again that their young and spirited ambitions were no escape from the same burden he feels when thinking about what it’s like to be president.
“Well, look, there’s stress involved. But let me tell you something. I promise you there’s stress involved being the principal of a middle school. There’s stress involved being a teacher…”
Americans can relieve Barack Obama of his self-perceived burden in 2012, by choosing a volunteer who knows from military experience that sacrifice to effect safety and happiness in service to the United States is an honor.
Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President to Students at Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology,” The White House, February 14, 2011.