During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?"Now let me write this down," the president quipped. He looked down at the podium. "I've got..."
Interjected Zeleny: "Surprised, troubled..."
Mr. Obama: "I've got -- what was the first one?"
Mr. Obama: "Surprised."
Mr. Obama: "Troubled."
The president paused. "Enchanted," he repeated. "Nice."
For the first time in a rather sober press conference, laughter broke out among the reporters.
After Zeleny reminded Mr. Obama the fourth category – humbled – the president addressed the question. His full response is below.
All right. OK. Surprised. I am surprised compared to where I started, when we first announced for this race, by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time.
You know, when I first started this race, Iraq was a central issue, but the economy appeared on the surface to still be relatively strong. There were underlying problems that I was seeing with health care for families and our education system and college affordability and so forth, but obviously, I didn't anticipate the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
And so, you know, the typical president, I think, has two or three big problems. We've got seven or eight big problems. And so we've had to move very quickly and I'm very proud of my team for the fact that we've been able to keep our commitments to the American people, to bring about change, while at the same time managing a whole host of issues that had come up that weren't necessarily envisioned a year-and-a-half ago.
Troubled? I'd say less troubled, but, you know, sobered by the fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we're in the middle of really big crises.
I would like to think that everybody would say, you know what, let's take a time-out on some of the political games, focus our attention for at least this year, and then we can start running for something next year. And that hasn't happened as much as I would have liked.
Enchanted? Enchanted. I will tell you that when I -- when I meet our servicemen and -women, enchanted is probably not the word I would use.
But I am so profoundly impressed and grateful to them for what they do. They're really good at their job. They are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices on our behalf. They do so without complaint. They are fiercely loyal to this country.
And, you know, the more I interact with our servicemen and women, from the top brass down to the lowliest private, I'm just -- I'm grateful to them.
Humbled by the -- humbled by the fact that the presidency is extraordinarily powerful, but we are just part of a much broader tapestry of American life, and there are a lot of different power centers. And so I can't just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want or, you know, turn on a switch and suddenly, you know, Congress falls in line.
And so, you know, what you do is to -- is to make your best arguments, listen hard to what other people have to say, and coax folks in the right direction.
This metaphor has been used before, but the ship of state is an ocean liner. It's not a speedboat. And so the way we are constantly thinking about this issue, of how to bring about the changes that the American people need, is to -- is to say, if we can move this big battleship a few degrees in a different direction, you may not see all the consequences of that change a week from now or three months from now, but 10 years from now or 20 years from now, our kids will be able to look back and say, "That was when we started getting serious about clean energy. That's when health care started to become more efficient and affordable. That's when we became serious about raising our standards in education."
And -- and so I -- I have a much longer time horizon than I think you do when you're a candidate or if you're listening, I think, to the media reportage on a day-to-day basis.
And I'm humbled, last, by the American people who have shown extraordinary patience and I think a recognition that we're not going to solve all of these problems overnight.
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