Former President Barack Obama has given his first in-depth sit-down interview since leaving office, but instead of doing so for a major US network, #44 decided to allow his friend, Prince Harry, to interview him for the BBC’s radio show, Today.
Although the interview was recorded when the friends reconnected at this past September’s Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada, the BBC just aired the interview Wednesday, and besides some adorable banter, the former president showed off his skills in diplomacy when telling listeners how he feels about everything from politics to social media — and everything in between.
Starting off, the prince asked Obama about his year since leaving office, and the president was stoic about his last day at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “Overall there was serenity there, more than I would have expected,” he told Prince Harry, adding that he felt as if there was a lot of work he left undone at the White House, but was ultimately happy with what he achieved.
Since leaving the Oval Office, Obama said he’s been happy with the slower pace of his life, but that he follows the news closely. Although President Donald Trump has been very critical of his predecessor since taking office, Obama seems unfazed by it all, and remained on the high road when it came to talking about the current administration.
Without naming anyone currently in politics, the former president talked with the prince about how those in power use social media, asking, “How do we harness this technology that allows a multiplicity of voices, a diversity of views, but does not lead to a Balkanisation [dividing people into smaller, mutually hostile groups] of our society, and rather continues to promote ways of finding common ground?”
Both the former president and the prince admit they are “obsessed” with watching today’s youth, with Obama saying, “This generation is the most sophisticated, the most tolerant in many ways, the most embracing of diversity, the most tech-savvy, the most entrepreneurial, but they do not have much faith in existing institutions.”
“All of us in leadership have to find ways to recreate a common space on the internet,” he added, noting that as a former constitutional lawyer, there is a fine line in stifling people’s access to information.
“One of the dangers of the internet is people can have entirely different realities,” said Obama. “They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.” Obama also talked about the “thick skin” he acquired after eight years in the White House.
As for what he’s doing now, Obama said he likes the pace of his life outside of politics, and how free he feels and credits his wife, Michelle Obama with her partnership in how he managed to come out of his presidency seemingly unscathed. “Now when I wake up I can make my own decisions on how to spend my time, and what to do to forward the things I care deeply about. That is obviously hugely liberating,” he said.
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(Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation )