US President Barack Obama, who is celebrating his 55th birthday – his last as Potus – on Thursday (4 August), has thanked his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Natasha for keeping him grounded. With less than half-a-year left for his term to end, Obama opened up about how he has managed to strike a balance between his personal life and political career while at the White House.
"I am positive that if I'm lucky enough to live to a ripe old age and I'm on my deathbed and I'm thinking back on my life, I won't be remembering some speech I gave or some law I signed. I'll be remembering holding hands with one of my daughters and walking them to a park. That'll be the thing most precious to me," the president said.
As he was addressing a summit for young African leaders in Washington on 3 August, the crowd started singing the Happy Birthday song. Obama, who turns 55 on 4 August, acknowledged that he managed to lead a happy personal life, while leading the world's largest economy.
"For me, the reason that it's been useful to maintain that balance is I think it's grounded me. It's allowed me, during the course of my presidency when things aren't going so well, to remember that I have this beautiful family and this wonderful wife.
"And when things are going very well, it's good to go home and then my wife teases me about how I left my shoes in the middle of the living room, or my girls think what I'm talking about over dinner is boring, and that brings me down to earth."
When a member of the audience at the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders summit asked Obama about the importance of running a family while holding public office, he said: "Maintaining balance, having a strong partnership with your wife or husband, raising children who are kind and useful and strong and generous and all the things that my wonderful daughters are - that really is its own reward."
"The two things don't always align," he said as he also noted that not all great leaders have had a happy personal life. He added that the country has had some wonderful parents and great husbands who have been bad leaders too.
Looking back at his career, the president admitted that he was ready to quit politics had he lost his US senate race in 2004. However, he did encourage the youth and said, "Worry less about what you want to be and worry more about what you want to do."
He added: "Politics is a little bit like going into acting or being a musician... You can be really talented, but maybe the timing is off. Maybe you didn't get the lucky break. And so you can't guarantee that you're going to be elected or successful in a particular office... When you think about me being President of the United States, it was quite unlikely."
As his presidency comes to an end in January 2017, Obama spoke about how the media has been kind to him. "There have been times when I thought the press was very unfair and I'd open up the newspapers and go 'what?' and I'd start arguing," the president said, adding that there he also observed times where press investigations have made him think "you know what, this is a problem".
"But in the end, I'd rather have the press err on the side of freedom, even if sometimes it's a little inaccurate, than to have the person who is governing the country making decision about whi is wrong and who is right and who can say what and who can publish what," he said hinting at countries where leaders dictate media.