Barack Obama acknowledged on Friday feeling some personal frustrations since moving into the White House. But in a town hall meeting in Strasbourg, France, the president insisted that the call to public service outweighed the occasionally-depressing loss of anonymity.
"You feel a lot of weight on your shoulders, there is no doubt about it," said Obama, when asked in the event's final question whether he had experienced any frustrations with the job. "It's very frustrating now ... 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, you know, 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. Losing that ability to just take a walk, that is something that is frustrating."
Earlier, Obama had expressed a tinge of jealousy over the brevity of European presidential and prime minister campaigns, noting that his nearly two-year run for the White House had kept him away from a "wonderful wife" and "two perfect daughters." He added that the sacrifice was easier to cope with because it had been done for public, not personal gain.
"I truly believe that there's nothing more noble than public service," said Obama. "Now, that doesn't mean that you have to run for president. You know, you might work for Doctors Without Borders or you might volunteer for an agency, or you might be somebody working for the United Nations, or you might be the mayor of Strasbourg, right? You might volunteer in your own community. But the point is that what I found at a very young age was that if you only think about yourself... over the long term, I think you get bored... I think if you're only thinking about yourself, your life becomes diminished and that the way to live a full life is to think about what can I do for others? How can I be part of this larger project in making a better world?"