In Malaysia, Obama gets personal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Human rights. Trade talks. Religious freedom. Asian economics. China.

President Barack Obama was prepped and ready to be quizzed the thorniest of topics in U.S.-Asian policy as he took the mic Sunday in front of hundreds of young Asians at a town hall-style forum at the University of Malaya.

But when the questions started coming, many of the young questioners were more interested in getting a personal sense of the first American president to visit Malaysia in more than four decades.

What is happiness? asked one young person. Spending time with your family, Obama replied after a few seconds of thought.

Another participant wanted to know about Obama's aspirations as a youngster and whether he had achieved his goals. Reflecting on a personal biography that's already familiar to many Americans, Obama recalled high school years in which he didn't take his studies as seriously as, well, perhaps he should have.

"Sometimes I was enjoying life too much," Obama said, inviting the youngsters to read between the lines.

When one questioner asked Obama about his biggest regrets, Obama had a quick retort: "I regret calling on you, because now I'm going to be telling everybody my business," Obama said.

Turning serious for a moment, Obama said he regretted not spending more time with his mother before she died of cancer.

"What you remember in the end, I think, is the people you love," Obama said near the conclusion of the 80-minute town hall. "I realized that I didn't every single day - or at least more often - just spend time with her and find out what she was thinking and what she was doing, because she had been such an important part of my life."


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