Despite his inhumanly huge title, one of the ways that President Obama shows is humanity is that occasional moment when he publicly marvels that he's actually president and that it'll be over soon. After his second inaugural address Monday, Obama was heading back into the Capitol when he paused at the top of the steps, turned toward the crowd, and said wistfully, "I want to look out one more time because I'll never see this again." Obama's last look lasted 25 seconds, and it was caught on camera (video below). But Obama has had Obama nostalgia for much of the last year.
Obama's first big hint that he was feeling sentimental came on July 10, when he told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, "This will be my last political campaign no matter what. I've got nothing else to run for." Obama kept noting the "last" things as the campaign continued. The New York Times' Peter Baker reported in November, "With each passing day, aides said, Mr. Obama has taken note every time he passes a milestone." At Camp David, when he was preparing to debate Mitt Romney, Obama said, "This is my last debate prep practice." When he toured the debate state, he said, "This is my last walk-through." After his third debate with Romney, Obama said, "This is my last debate."
Obama's aides noticed the nostalgia. Adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the Times, "You can see the nostalgia, the wistfulness, setting in... The focus here is winning and making the case, but the last campaign of a man’s life — you every once in a while pause and think about that."
By the time he was speaking at his last campaign rally the night before the election, nostalgia was hitting Obama hard. He talked about the South Carolina woman who invented Obama's campaign slogan, "Fired Up, Ready to Go." She wouldn't fly to Des Moines for Obama's last rally because she still thought North Carolina was winnable for him and was busy volunteering. The sentimentality infected campaign aides, The Economist reported. Obama told the crowd, "I came back to ask you to help us finish what we started because this is where our movement for change began." He teared up at the rally (above right).
Obama cried again when talking to campaign staffers in Chicago after the election. The young volunteers seemed to give him a feeling that it wasn't all for nothing. "Even before the results came in, I felt that the work that I had done in running for office had come full circle," Obama said. "Because what you guys have done means that the work that I'm doing is important." At his second inauguration, there weren't so much tears when he turned around as a sort of sentimental, satisfied smile:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.