Obama says he is ‘humbler’ because of presidency
President Barack Obama reflected on the impact of his presidency during an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at AU.
Obama spoke to a selective audience of AU students, faculty and staff in the packed Harold and Sylvia Greenberg Theatre on Dec. 5, comparing a president’s efforts to that of an uphill battle.
“[Being president] makes you humbler as opposed to cockier about what you as an individual can do,” he said. “You recognize that you are just part of a sweep of history.”
The president also revealed his more vulnerable side, citing the qualities a president needs to justly govern.
“I’d say that the most important qualities of any president, and I’m not saying I have these qualities because I’m speaking historically, is sense of connection with the American people,” he said. “And that’s what allows you to have that second quality of persistence.”
Before Obama delved into the personal side of serving as president, Matthews grilled him with questions about the health care website’s bugs.
“[T]here should have been a CEO assigned by you personally with unique personal responsibility to oversee the reform on health care and there wasn’t,” Matthews said.
Despite the heat, Obama urged students to sign up for health care now, promoting its low cost.
“This is the opportunity to get high quality health insurance and for most people under 30, it’s probably going to cost you less than your cell phone bill or your cable bill,” he said.
As individuals enroll in the new health care policy, Matthews raised the question of whether the government will protect private information in light of recent National Security Agency findings.
However, Obama ensured him that NSA employees are focusing their efforts internationally to detect threats to the American people.
“They are not interested in reading your emails, they’re not interested in reading your text messages,” he said.
Congress has tried to curb the NSA’s surveillance powers through various bills, but gridlock has prevented the legislative body from passing laws. Obama said the Republicans are to blame.
“I have always been prepared to not only negotiate but go and push forward on possible compromises,” he said.
He also faulted the news media for Americans’ lack of trust in the government.
“[P]art of the reason people are so skeptical is when we do things right, they don’t get a lot of attention,” he said. “If we do something that is perceived initially as a screw-up, it will be on the nightly news.”
Toward the end, Obama encouraged AU students to pursue a career in politics, but warned of the hard work and need for tough skin.
“It continues to be a way to serve that I think can be noble,” he said. “For those young people who don’t mind a little gray hair, it’s not only something I recommend, but something I love.”