Shortly before the 2004 Illinois Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, which he was to win by a landslide, Barack Obama was riding high. After about a year of nonstop campaigning, the Illinois state senator had raised far more money than any of his rivals, and his path both to the nomination and to the floor of the U.S. Senate seemed assured. But his closest advisers sensed that the 42-year-old candidate and father of two — 5-year-old Malia and 2-year-old Sasha — was feeling a bit down and listless. As Valerie Jarrett later told biographer Richard Wolfe, she suggested that the candidate meet her for lunch at Chicago’s posh gym, the East Bank Club.
“What’s wrong?” Obama asked “the principal,” as he referred to his chief aide. Jarrett replied, “Your heart isn’t in it. What’s wrong with you?” “I miss my girls,” Obama said as tears welled up. “I don’t want to be the kind of father I had.” But after composing himself, he added, “I’ll work it out. I’ll be okay.” This hands-on dad, who helped coach Sasha’s grammar school basketball team, puts a high premium on both connecting with and providing direction to his girls. At 6:30, Obama and his wife sit down with the girls for a family dinner without any outsiders. The evening meal, observed Obama’s former body-man Reggie Love, was treated “like a meeting in the Situation Room. There’s a hard stop before that dinner.” While aides sometimes call him back to work at 8:30 or 9, they rarely dare to go upstairs to bother him during the sacred dinner hour.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia Obama and Sasha Obama leave the White House before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn. The First Family is traveling to New Mexico and tour Carlsbad Caverns National Park to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of America’s national park system.