What President Barack Obama Would Do if Given a Day to Do Anything

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Michael Lewis, President Barack Obama. Photo: Official White House Photograph/Pete Souza

Reporter Michael Lewis followed President Barack Obama for six months in order to write the profile “Obama's Way.” At its core, the Vanity Fair story is a testament to the 44th president's ability to juggle numerous duties while making decisions that he hopes stay true to his character. In one day he might give interviews about a domestic policy like “No Child Left Behind,” meet with a child who has an incurable disease, meet with his staff, talk to ESPN about sports, celebrate high school students who have won a science competition, and make a decision to involve the country in a foreign war. Lewis shadowed Obama during flights on Air Force One, a pick-up basketball game with the FBI, and around the White House as the president reacted to the series of everyday events that required his attention. In the end, Lewis was able to use his reporting to connect Obama's decision about how to deal with the revolution in Libya with a downed Air Force navigator's situation on the ground in that country.

In the midst of all of his reporting, Lewis asked Obama what he would do if he could get away from everything for a day. Obama's answer is simple and clean and shows that he values his time outside.

Aboard Air Force One, I’d asked him what he would do if granted a day when no one knew who he was and he could do whatever he pleased. How would he spend it? He didn’t even have to think about it:

When I lived in Hawaii, I’d take a drive from Waikiki to where my grandmother lived—up along the coast heading east, and it takes you past Hanauma Bay. When my mother was pregnant with me she’d take a walk along the beach…. You park your car. If the waves are good you sit and watch and ponder it for a while. You grab your car keys in the towel. And you jump in the ocean. And you have to wait until there is a break in the waves…. And you put on a fin—and you only have one fin—and if you catch the right wave you cut left because left is west…. Then you cut down into the tube there. You might see the crest rolling and you might see the sun glittering. You might see a sea turtle in profile, sideways, like a hieroglyph in the water…. And you spend an hour out there. And if you’ve had a good day you’ve caught six or seven good waves and six or seven not so good waves. And you go back to your car. With a soda or a can of juice. And you sit. And you can watch the sun go down….

The passage is powerful alone, but it resonates more if you read the entire article.

H/T: Andrew Romano

—Joe Spring