Barack Obama photo

Interview With The First Lady and Barbara Walters on ABC's "A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama"

November 23, 2010

THE FIRST LADY: Well hello.

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Barbara.

WALTERS: Well hello! ...Fancy meeting you here

THE PRESIDENT: So nice to see you, how are you?

WALTERS: I'm just fine, thanks.


WALTERS: Thank you so much. It's good to see you.

THE FIRST LADY: I'm very happy to see you, and you look beautiful.

WALTERS: Well you're very kind to welcome us at this time, when you're, you're so busy, you've got Thanksgiving...

THE FIRST LADY: Ah, this is a fun time.

WALTERS: Is it a good time?

THE FIRST LADY: The house is being prepared, so at least it's clean.

WALTERS: Mr. President, I want to speak to you about something very serious.


WALTERS: I understand that it's a custom to pardon a turkey?


THE FIRST LADY: [laughs]

WALTERS: This year there is also a vice turkey?

THE PRESIDENT: There is a vice turkey.

THE FIRST LADY: Oh, I didn't hear about the vice turkey.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we think that it's always appropriate that not only do we have the official turkey, but a backup turkey, just in case.

THE FIRST LADY: How's he doing. Hi, you. Hi, you.

THE PRESIDENT: How you doing, buddy.


THE PRESIDENT: Doing okay? You look pretty cute.

WALTERS: Does Bo-Bo do anything?

THE FIRST LADY: He's clean. Let's see if he will.

THE PRESIDENT: Well let's see, hopefully.


WALTERS: Bo, do you shake hands? ... Could you shake hands?

THE PRESIDENT: There you go.

THE FIRST LADY: There we go.

THE PRESIDENT: There you go.

THE FIRST LADY: Good job! [claps] Good boy.

WALTERS: Yes, and then he gets his tummy rubbed, right?


THE PRESIDENT: Oh, he likes that.

THE FIRST LADY: Oh, goodness, oh Barbara, I love you, I love you so. I love you so. Okay come on, let's go.

WALTERS: Almost like having a son, isn't it?

THE FIRST LADY: I know. This is my boy...He's my dog.

THE PRESIDENT: It's more hers. I gotta admit.

WALTERS: You know, when I walked in here...

THE FIRST LADY: But the girls would be upset if we said that. It's their dog.

WALTERS: I see. Maybe they won't watch.

WALTERS: When I walk in here, the first thing I see, of course, is the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. President, what does Lincoln mean to you?

THE PRESIDENT: Of all the presidents, he's the one I admire the most, and I think about all the time.

WALTERS: Mm-hmm.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, partly because, obviously, uh, the symbolism of a president who emancipated the slaves as the first African-American president, that's something I think about.


THE PRESIDENT: But he's also somebody who, I think, wrestled with the weightiest issues, the biggest crisis that our country ever went through. And yet, he never demonized the other side.

WALTERS: Isn't that nice.

THE PRESIDENT: ...Thanksgiving a national holiday.

WALTERS: You know, I didn't know that.

WALTERS: You know, when we talked two years ago, you said that you were not going to cook.


WALTERS: ...Probably, you're still not cooking....Everybody else, everybody else is bringing food in.

THE FIRST LADY: Well...the tradition was to bring everybody, when we were in Chicago. And that was a potluck, because rather than have us all cook...Every would bring some.

THE PRESIDENT: ...Yeah, everybody would bring something.

THE FIRST LADY: Yeah, I have to say, we don't require people to bring food to the White House. In fact, the chef and the staff would be insulted, so...

THE PRESIDENT: Well also, the Secret Service would have to taste everything.

THE FIRST LADY: That's right. That's true.

WALTERS: Really?

[This year, the service event for the Obamas, their relatives and guests was helping out at Martha's Table ---an organization in Washington that feeds the poor. On Wednesday afternoon, the President of the United States and his extended family donned aprons and helped other volunteers feed less fortunate citizens of the nation's capital.

At the White House on Thanksgiving, family and friends gathered for dinner here in the main rooms on the first floor. But the President planned to spend some time upstairs, in what he calls his favorite room.

THE PRESIDENT: The treaty room which is my office, because it's also where I can watch football.

WALTERS: Ah, yes, yes! I have to ask you about football.

THE FIRST LADY: We should have something more deep than that to say. How about in there you go to contemplate life.

WALTERS: Well now, now, now, please, I want to talk to you since we're here, because we forgot about football, because all the big games are coming up.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.

WALTERS: You're going to watch.

THE PRESIDENT: I will watch, absolutely.

WALTERS: ...Anybody watch, the girls?

THE PRESIDENT: ...I've got my brother in-law, I've got my nephew.

WALTERS: Yeah, so far I haven't seen any girls.

THE PRESIDENT: I've got Michelle's uncles.

WALTERS: Yeah, wait a minute.

THE FIRST LADY: I pop in and out.


THE FIRST LADY: But I don't watch the whole game.

THE PRESIDENT: You know, hey now, I will say, Michelle actually knows her football. Because when we work out in the mornings, we always have it on Sports Center. And she has now become...


THE PRESIDENT: ...An expert on sports. She doesn't care about it, but she knows about it, whether she likes it or not.

THE FIRST LADY: I do care. I care deeply.

WALTERS: Deeply. Do the girls watch?



THE FIRST LADY: Mm-mm, no, not at all.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, but Malia the other day came and sat and watched.

THE FIRST LADY: That must've been...

THE PRESIDENT: It was just to be nice to her daddy, yeah.


WALTERS: I have, I have one more sports question. LeBron James, how do you feel about the Miami Heat that they haven't done better?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, yeah, it takes some time for a team to come together. There's no I in team, so no matter how good a, a player is, no matter how good a group of players are, if they havn't played together before, they're not going to be as good as a team that's played together a long time.

WALTERS: Sounds like politics.

THE PRESIDENT: Same thing. [. . . . ]

WALTERS: You know there is news now of a Royal Wedding.


WALTERS:...yes, in April. You have not met Kate or...?


WALTERS:...or William...?

THE FIRST LADY: No, mm mm.

WALTERS: Do you want to give them a little message?

THE FIRST LADY: We sent congratulations. Congratulations. And hopefully you will be as happy, as happily married as Barack and I.

THE PRESIDENT: There you go.

WALTERS: Awww, that's very nice.

THE FIRST LADY: But they look like good friends, and that's a good thing.

WALTERS: They look as if they are happy, don't they?


WALTERS: Your husband has said that you are his chief advisor. So what did you say to him the night of November 2nd, when he was -- as he put it -- "shellacked"?

THE FIRST LADY: I said, "Let's, let's get to work. There is a lot to do." There... I, I think for, for us, it's always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead.

THE PRESIDENT: Now keep in mind, that election night, I think she went to sleep. So.

WALTERS: Did you really?

THE PRESIDENT: She, she, she goes to sleep early.

THE FIRST LADY: I go to bed early. I can't stay awake for the returns... I gotta get up, work out.

WALTERS: So you didn't care less that the Democrats took over the House?

THE FIRST LADY: And it was gonna be whatever it was gonna be the next day. So I did, I did go to sleep.

WALTERS: This man who was considered such a great communicator. What did he do wrong?

THE FIRST LADY: It's a tough time. I mean, my understanding is that, number one, every president in history has lost Congress at the midterms. Maybe that's overstating it, but it's happened for every president in, in my lifetime.

THE PRESIDENT: It's the norm.

THE FIRST LADY: It's the norm. But unemployment is high, folks are hurting. There is nothing that I would look at in this year. I wouldn't look at not giving this country healthcare, I wouldn't I wouldn't want to take back any of the investments that we have made in education. So I think from a policy perspective, he has done an outstanding job.

THE PRESIDENT: She is a little biased.

THE FIRST LADY: You know, what...


WALTERS: You are watching him...

THE FIRST LADY: I am, I am here watching him.

WALTERS: Yeah. How do you feel when he is attacked?

THE FIRST LADY: It's, it's not personal, you focus on the work. The country has the responsibility—the, the right and the responsibility to, uh, critique their president. That's part of the job. So you know, you, you take in what, what you need to and you keep the stuff that doesn't apply out and you keep working every day.

WALTERS: Mr. President, there are some folks who say that you squandered your political capital with the healthcare plan when you should have been focusing on jobs.

THE PRESIDENT: This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true. I mean, the fact is is that we stabilized the financial system...we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy. And I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented healthcare, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don't have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that's gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of. And there is no contradiction between that and improving our economy.

WALTERS: Do your girls watch the news?

THE FIRST LADY: They really don't. Our oldest daughter is in, hmmm, middle school and they talk about current events. And there are issues of the day that come across the conversation. But I have to say that the school is very good about handling it. And quite frankly, I think she said, "You know, that's on him."

THE FIRST LADY: You know, she said that at dinner one, one night, because there are some people who worry that a comment here or there might be problematic. People are very considerate. But she was...

WALTERS: Yeah, but what are you gonna do? Are they gonna be hurt? What are you gonna do?

THE FIRST LADY: She, she said, "You know, Dad, uh uh, no disrespect, but...that's what you do."


THE FIRST LADY: And she said, "That doesn't have anything to do with me." I mean, so there is... And she is... She separates out. But you know, they, they don't listen to the news. They are not reading the, the front pages of the paper. They...

THE PRESIDENT: They are not, they are not watching cable TV.

THE FIRST LADY: Yeah, and they, they keep up with the main issues.

THE PRESIDENT: Right. Well then, we talk about it around dinner.


THE PRESIDENT: So, so they'll say, "You know, Daddy, now, you know, why, uh, are we fighting in Afghanistan?"

WALTERS: Really?

THE PRESIDENT: "You know, how did that start?," or...


THE PRESIDENT: ...they'll say, "You know, uh, you know, people talk about a recession. What's a recession?"

THE PRESIDENT: So they're curious but if they have got an option of watching the news or watching SpongeBob. I think it's pretty clear the choice that they are gonna make.

WALTERS: Are the girls still writing to Santa?

THE FIRST LADY: Hmmm. Well, one is.

THE FIRST LADY: Don't divulge anything for any families who are watching. Santa...

WALTERS: Not a word. We all write to Santa.

THE FIRST LADY: We're going to see where the letters go this year

THE PRESIDENT: ...I will say when, when it comes to the Tooth Fairy, you know, there was a, a little dialogue that we had with, with Malia. Well, when Michelle forgot to...

THE FIRST LADY: Hmmm, I don't remember that.

THE PRESIDENT: signal the Tooth Fairy to come in...

THE FIRST LADY: Yeah, I know...

THE PRESIDENT: ...failed to come in. And we came in and it was missing. And then we put the money in later.

THE FIRST LADY: Because we, we hadn't called the Tooth Fairy.

THE PRESIDENT: And here is, and here is what Malia said. She said, "You know, whether I believe in it or not, I sure like getting the money."

WALTERS: Oh, OK. She knows. She knows. After your husband lost the Democratic Primary, um, candidate for Congress in the year 2000, you wanted him to give up politics.


WALTERS: Yeah. And you talked about it openly.


WALTERS: It affected your marriage...


WALTERS: ...You wanted him to get out. Is there ever a moment when you say to yourself, one term is enough?

THE FIRST LADY: You know, I think that it's important for him to finish what he started. I mean, the thing that doesn't get talked about in that is that, any ambivalence that I felt was all personal. It was all the sacrifice that this life requires of one's family. But, if I had to pick the man I'd want to be in politics, the kind of person that we seek out in this country, somebody who's honest and sincere, and smart as a whip, he would be the person that I would pick and that's always been why I followed him into these escapades is because I would feel guilty to think that because of me that somebody like him didn't do what this country needed. And I still feel that way. And I'll feel that way until the job is done. But that's up to the American people.

WALTERS: Mr. President, your supporters say that you saved the banking industry from collapse. And you saved the automobile industry. You have cut taxes for the middle class. If you did all of these things, why are you so unpopular?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I appreciate that. Well, first of all, I am not so unpopular. I mean, my... poll numbers are a little higher than Bill Clinton's were at this point in the presidency, or Ronald Reagan's were at this point in his presidency. And, we have gone through a really tough time. And so, no matter how much good stuff we have done, people still are looking at 9.6 percent unemployment and that's frustrating for people. And I don't make any excuses.

WALTERS: ...or your personal, your personality I guess is what I am getting at. What were the changes?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think that -- no matter what happened in the election -- the first two years were all about saving the economy from a crisis, and we have done that. The economy has now stabilized. ...We have gotten the economy to grow again, our focus now has to be on issues like education, issues like investing in research and development, issues like infrastructure development.... So my hope is is that new Republican leadership -- those who are coming in -- that they welcome the opportunity to work together...with me and other focus on solving the country's problems instead of focusing on politics. And, and I am confident that we are gonna be able to do that.

WALTERS: Mr. President, the Republicans, many of them have said that what they want most is to make sure you only have one term. So what areas do you think they're going to be willing to compromise?

THE PRESIDENT: We've actually taken a whole series of steps to reform the education system, that are unprecedented, and have gotten compliments from Republicans, including people like Newt Gingrich. So, that's one area where I think we can make a difference right away...We're going to have to do something about the deficit and the debt. And the problem is that historically, at least lately, there's been a lot of rhetoric on all sides that, that pretends that somehow we can have something for nothing. That we can, you know, fund all our important programs, maintain our safety net, make sure social security and Medicare are safe, have, you know, a defense department that gets everything that it wants, and we don't end up having to pay for it. And that's going to be an area where I think we've got to have an honest conversation. ...

I'm looking forward to Republicans, and Democrats, working together to actually solve the problem, instead of trying to score political points.

WALTERS: Many people this Thanksgiving are unemployed as you know, almost 10 percent. Some of them can't even afford a turkey. What do they have to be thankful for? What can they hope for?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have gone through two of the toughest years we have seen certainly in my lifetime and yours. The worst recession since the Great Depression. And so, you are right. All across the country, people are hurting. People are losing jobs. And sometimes with that, they have lost hope. ...I think the important thing for all of us to remember though is that first of all, we have been through tougher times before as a country and we have always come out on top...I am confident that if...we are investing in research and development that continues to make us an innovation leader for the future... that we are gonna do great. ...I am very, very confident that our best days are still ahead of us.

WALTERS: You have consistently said that you want to end the Bush tax cuts for people who earn over $250 thousand a year and now there are signs that you would compromise. Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I've said is, we should extend the tax cuts that affect middle class families. 98 percent of American people make $250 thousand a year or less. And what Democrats and Republicans agree on right now, is that their taxes shouldn't go up on January 1st, which right now, if Congress doesn't act, they are slated to do.

WALTERS: But in the spirit of compromise, would you extend the tax cuts for everyone, for one year?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to be meeting with the Republican leadership next week. And I'm looking forward to hearing what their ideas are. We need to get this resolved. I, you know, expect that I don't end up getting everything I want. I think, hopefully they come to the table understanding they're not going to get everything that they want.

WALTERS: So is the answer yes, maybe?

THE PRESIDENT: ...With you. ...I'm going to sit down and negotiate with them.

WALTERS: I thought you were going to give me a Thanksgiving present.


WALTERS: No such luck. Well let's talk politics.

WALTERS: ...That she could beat you.

THE PRESIDENT: I don't speculate on what's going to happen two years from now. I'm right now focused on making sure that we're doing everything we can to improve the economy and put people back to work. And if we're doing that people will want to see a continuation of the progress that we've made. And if I don't then it probably really won't matter who's running against me...

WALTERS: You will not tell me that you think you could beat Sarah Palin?

THE PRESIDENT: What I'm saying is, I don't think about Sarah Palin.

WALTERS: OK. *****

WALTERS: Are there any circumstances under which you would not run for president?

THE PRESIDENT: I will tell you that I love the job...and it is an extraordinary privilege. Other than my commitment to my family, and my commitment to my faith, that there is nothing, that's more important to me.

WALTERS: Mr. President, North Korea is getting more aggressive by the day. Beyond struggling, we did condemnation and sanctions, which haven't seemed to work. What exactly can you do about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well as you said, this is a...just one more provocative incident in a series that we have seen over the last several months. ...We have strongly condemned the attack, as you mentioned. And we are rallying the international community once again to put pressure on North Korea. ...We want to make sure that all the parties in the region recognize that this is a serious and ongoing threat that has to be dealt with.


THE PRESIDENT: Well, China is a country that has influence on North Korea -- one of the few. I have communicated before and will communicate again to China that it's important that they stand firm and make clear to North Korea that there are a set of international rules that they need to abide by.

WALTERS: Is an attack on South Korea an attack on the U.S.?

THE PRESIDENT: South Korea is our ally it has been since the Korean War, and we strongly affirm our commitment to defend South Korea as part of that alliance.

WALTERS: Will we perhaps send warships, or are we to put U.S. troops on alert?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that would be... and I am not gonna speculate on military actions on this point. I want to consult with President Lee, but as I said before, this is one of our most important alliances along with our alliance with Japan. This is the cornerstone of U.S. security in the Pacific region.

WALTERS: You know, we have talked about Afghanistan in the past, and we'll continue to.


WALTERS: And now we hear that by 2014, we hope that we can turn things over to the Afghan people. Will by 2014, we will have accomplished our mission? We will have what we call "victory"?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, hmmm, you know, in, in this day and age, when you are dealing with not nation states but a bunch of thugs -- a bunch of shadowy networks of terrorists -- you never get a day when you declare victory. And you have to be persistent, you have to be that plays itself out is something that's gonna be determined in part by our success over the next several years, not just on the military front, but also on the political front, making sure that all parties in the region, all actors in the region, recognize this is not just a threat to us but, uh, a threat to them as well.

WALTERS: On this holiday weekend, one of the questions that people are asking is, "Did we need the kind of patdown that we have had at the airport?"


WALTERS: What do you think? Has it gone too far?

THE PRESIDENT: This, this is gonna be something that evolves, we are gonna have to work on it. Well, hopefully technologies will improve where, uh, there are other ways of approaching it. I understand people's frustrations with it, but I also know that if you know, if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people...and it turned out that we could have prevented it possibly... that would be something that you know, well would be pretty upsetting to most of us -- including me.


WALTERS: By many accounts, your wife is more popular than you are.


THE FIRST LADY: I've got an easier job.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, no, it, you know, understandably. She's a fantastic First Lady. There are issues that, that Michelle has strong opinions about, and there's some that she feels less strongly about. But she's always got an opinion. And it shapes how I think.

THE PRESIDENT: Because I think that, you know, she has great instincts, about, you know, how the American people are feeling.

WALTERS: I want to talk to you about one of your own projects, that's very important to you, and that's fighting childhood obesity. What do you hope to accomplish?

THE FIRST LADY: Well, our goal is ambitious but simple. I mean, we want to end the epidemic in a generation. We're really aiming at children born today, 'cause our goal is that if we begin shaping habits, and shaping the conversation, and providing information to parents and teachers, and engaging all of our leaders in this conversation, that we'll change the habits of young people today,

WALTERS: Sarah Palin recently brought cookies to a school in Pennsylvania...


WALTERS: To show her disapproval of the state's proposal to limit sweets in public schools. Many conservatives ask, well, you know, whose business is it? Is it the government's business?


WALTERS: Or the parent's business. So, what do you think should be the role of government in combating obesity.

THE FIRST LADY: Mm-hmm. Well we've always said throughout this campaign that this, solving this problem is going to take all of us. Parents, families, communities have the largest impact on how kids think about anything, particularly what they eat. But ultimately it requires all of us. And this campaign is about engaging all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike. I mean, the beauty about this issue is that it transcends politics. Because we all care about our kids.

WALTERS: But government has a role in the schools?

THE FIRST LADY: A government has a role to play in this issue, as does every other sector. And we reached out and engaged the grocery store manufacturers, and the restaurateurs. We brought in the mayors and governors of states and towns. We're calling on the faith-based community. There is no constituency that should be excluded from this call to action for our kids.

WALTERS: Are you sick of people talking about your toned arms? I noticed you're not wearing a sleeveless dress.

THE FIRST LADY: No, I will never get sick of people talking about my toned arms. If it's a positive compliment, I am a woman, just, like, bring it on. I'm, I'm cool with it. But no, I, you know, I still wear what I like and enjoy, and I thought this dress is pretty.

THE FIRST LADY: And in fact, my, my husband is, he liked this dress.

THE PRESIDENT: It's a nice looking dress.

THE FIRST LADY: Yeah. He, he said that several times today.

THE PRESIDENT: She, she, she looks good, generally.

WALTERS: Do you know one dress from another?

THE PRESIDENT: I do! I do. I, you know, I, I, I...


THE PRESIDENT: ...I notice what, uh, she wears.

THE FIRST LADY: No, he actually does, and it, sometimes it's a little irritating. Because it's like, is that new?

THE FIRST LADY: It's like, well, well—stay out of my closet! Still, we, I think he...

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not rifling through your closet, but I...

THE FIRST LADY: But he'll, he'll definitely notice.

THE PRESIDENT: ...Will notice.

THE FIRST LADY: He'll say that, that looks good.

THE PRESIDENT: She's got to sneak in something, you know...

THE FIRST LADY: Like, that's not new.

THE PRESIDENT: She's got that old strategy—no, no, that's old.

THE FIRST LADY: Yeah. Technically.

THE PRESIDENT: ...Technically it's not brand new.

THE FIRST LADY: It's not new.

WALTERS: But that's a problem, isn't it?


WALTERS: Having to have, you know, different clothes, and, and, and black tie...?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. We, we, we, we don't spend a lot of time, uh, feeling sorry for ourselves...


THE PRESIDENT: ...In terms of, in terms of just life in the White House.


THE PRESIDENT: Because obviously, you know, the staff here does unbelievable work, and you know, our kids are happy and healthy, and well-fed, and we've got...

THE FIRST LADY: No, we, we know how blessed we are.

THE PRESIDENT: We, we've got a pretty good deal, so we don't worry about it.

THE FIRST LADY: You know, coming from, you know...

THE PRESIDENT: Coming from where we came from, we're doing fine.

THE FIRST LADY: It's good.


THE FIRST LADY: It's good. No complaints.

WALTERS: What do you do when you're under stress? Do you have a glass of wine? Do you... I don't know, what do you do? Exercise?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, you know, I, I've been pretty religious about exercising.


THE PRESIDENT: And Michelle is too. And so that helps relieve stress.

THE FIRST LADY: Yeah, that's the, the key.

THE PRESIDENT: ...I mean, when you're stressed. You know, they, they are just, they're funny, they're smart, they're happy...

THE FIRST LADY: They rock you back into what's important.

THE PRESIDENT: You know, they tease ya. You know, they, they, they just refocus me. So...

THE FIRST LADY: They laugh at the way you eat.

THE PRESIDENT: Right, exactly. So, the most important things for me over the last two years, in terms of stress reduction, is the fact that if I'm here in Washington, I'm having dinner at 6:30, just about every night. And sitting around that table, listening to them, and trying to answer their questions, that keeps my bearings.

WALTERS: Do you ever curse?


WALTERS: You do curse.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.

WALTERS: When was the last time you cursed?

THE PRESIDENT: Let's see, what time is it?

WALTERS: Mr. President, you pray.


WALTERS: Every day?

THE PRESIDENT: Every night.

WALTERS: Read the bible?


WALTERS: Why do you think it is that so many people think you're a Muslim and...why is there that confusion?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the internet has a powerful effect, these days. And so you know, the way rumors can take on a life of their own ends up being very powerful. But, you know, the, the thing obviously that's important to me is what I believe, and you know, and Michelle and I, you know, have not only, you know, benefited from our prayer life, but I think the girls have too. We, we say grace before we have dinner every night, we take turns. It's interesting listening to the girls, what they pray for, 'cause they...


WALTERS: What do they pray for?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, they'll talk about family and, you know, thank, thanking God for Blessing us, but they'll always add a little twist, you know. I hope we have a great Thanksgiving, I can't wait to see the cousins, or...


THE PRESIDENT: They used to pray for a dog, until we got a dog. They've always got their little twists and variations.

THE FIRST LADY: But in the end, we always say, we hope we live long and strong.

THE PRESIDENT: Long and strong. And then that we give back.


WALTERS: You have a children's book out.


WALTERS: Which it just so happens I have.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Just happen to have it.

WALTERS: When the heck did you write a children's book?...In your spare time?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I actually wrote this before I was...sworn in. All the proceeds are going to the children of those who've fallen in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a nice way for us to make a contribution to military families who make so many sacrifices each and every day, on our behalf.

WALTERS: You know, when we've been together, I have asked you about, something you do at dinner, most nights, and that is, you describe the rose -- the good things that happen -- and the thorn.


WALTERS: So this Thanksgiving, look back. What's been rose, and what's been the thorn?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I've got a lot of roses. My family's happy and healthy, and they're doing wonderfully. Now, on the thorn side...

WALTERS: The Republicans.

THE PRESIDENT: No, you know, the fact that we haven't been able to make a bigger dent in unemployment during the course of this year. And that's something that, you know, will keep poking me, until, until we solve it.

WALTERS: Mrs. Obama, the rose, the thorn?

THE FIRST LADY: I think the rose is always my children, my family. Going to the bases, military bases, visiting the families. I mean, that's some of the best work that I do and it keeps you focused on what's important. And then you understand what real sacrifice is. I don't come back and feel sorry for anything going on with me here. I don't have a lot of thorns. I've got the thorny-less part of this gig and I tease him about that. Sometimes I walk away from the calls I hear him on and I think whew good luck with that.

WALTERS: You mentioned visiting families of servicemen.


WALTERS: What do you tell the mothers?

THE FIRST LADY: You know, that's... Not much you can say. Yeah.

WALTERS: What do you say?

THE FIRST LADY: I hug 'em.


THE FIRST LADY: I cry with them. I tell them how sorry I am, or feel for their loss, that there's no way on earth that I could possibly know how they feel.... These are proud families, so they're not looking for sympathy, they're just looking for that hand to ensure that they can keep going, particularly when their kid's involved. So, I figure all I can do is come back here and keep working.

WALTERS: Do you have a Thanksgiving message that you'd like to give to the country?

THE PRESIDENT: I just want to remind people of how incredibly resilient this country is, how we have been through wars and depressions, and great turmoil and yet, we've always been able to pull together, and make our way towards a brighter future for our kids and our grandkids. And this time's going to be no different.

WALTERS: As First Lady Mrs. Obama, do you have a Thanksgiving message for families?

THE FIRST LADY: I would urge people to use this time to come together, as families and community, and don't, don't take it for granted. Be kind to each other and laugh a little bit. Yeah. And don't worry about how much you eat. Just enjoy it.

WALTERS: You mean you're not going to...

THE FIRST LADY: This is the time! Eat pie! Eat the dressing!

WALTERS: I thank you for welcoming us in your home.

THE FIRST LADY: Thank you for being here. Thank you so much.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Barbara.

WALTERS: Mr. President, thank you, thank you.


NOTE: The interview was conducted on November 23 and broadcast on November 26.

Barack Obama, Interview With The First Lady and Barbara Walters on ABC's "A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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