Following this week’s tough talks on the global financial crisis, President Obama on Friday shifted his tone to reflect upon his regrets, his frustrations and his hopes for the younger generation.
Obama’s remarks came after a woman from Heidelberg, Germany, asked if he ever regretted having run for president. The question yielded a lengthy response from Obama, who is participating in his first overseas trip in office. “That’s a good question,” Obama said at a packed town hall meeting in Strasbourg, France. “Michelle definitely asked that question. “You know, there have been times, certainly during the campaign, and there have been times over the last several months where you feel a lot of weight on your shoulders. There’s no doubt about it,” the president said. With his wife, Michelle, looking on, Obama continued, “During the campaign, the biggest sacrifice — the thing that was most difficult was that I was away from my family all the time.” Watch Obama weigh in on his regrets and sacrifices » The president joked that he was jealous of not only Europe’s high-speed rail but also the fact that campaigns there only last a few months. Obama announced that he was running for president on February 10, 2007, and was inaugurated nearly two years later.
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“So I was away from home all the time, and that was very difficult, because not only do I have a wonderful wife, but I have two perfect daughters, and so, you know, I missed them a lot,” he said. The president expressed disappointment about the lack of privacy and anonymity he’s experienced since assuming office. “You know, it’s very frustrating now,” he said. “It used to be when I came to Europe that I could just wander down to a cafe and sit and have some wine and watch people go by and go into a little shop and watch the sun go down. “Now I’m in hotel rooms all the time. And I have security around me all the time. So just losing that ability to just take a walk, you know That is something that is frustrating.” After a couple of minutes of going over his regrets, Obama paused. “But — having said all that, I truly believe that there’s nothing more noble than public service,” he said, adding that service doesn’t mean one has to run for president. Obama pointed to Doctors Without Borders, the United Nations and community work as examples of other ways to serve. “But the point is that what I found at a very young age was that if you can only think about yourself — ‘How much money can I make What can I buy How nice is my house What kind of fancy car do I have’ — that over the long term, I think you get bored,” he told the audience of mostly students. “I think if you’re only thinking about yourself, your life becomes diminished, and the way to live a full life is to think about what can I do for others, how can I be a part of this larger project of making a better world,” he said. Obama said with all the challenges facing the world now, the younger generation has an abundance of opportunities to make a difference.
“It would be a tragedy if all of you who are so talented and energetic — if you let that go to waste, if you just stood back and watched the world pass you by,” he said. “Better to jump in, get involved — and it does mean that sometimes you’ll get criticized and sometimes you’ll fail and sometimes you’ll be disappointed — but you’ll have a great adventure. And at the end of your life, hopefully you’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I made a difference.’ ”