Self-containment is not simply Obama’s political default mode. Self-possession is the core of his being, and a central part of the secret of his success. It is Obama’s unwavering discipline to keep his cool when others are losing theirs, and it seems likely that no black man who behaved otherwise could ever have won the presidency.

But this quality, perhaps Obama’s greatest strength in gaining office, is his greatest weakness in conducting it. And as he ends the first year of his second term, that weakness seems to dog him—and to matter—more and more. At a time when the abrasions of office leave any president most in need of friends, Obama is the capital’s Lonely Guy.

Todd S. Purdum writing for Vanity Fair

Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend, or your partner. Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important. […]

As Morehouse man, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider; know what it’s like to be marginalized; know what it’s like to feel the sting of discrimination. And that’s an experience that a lot of Americans share. Hispanic Americans know that feeling when somebody asks them where they come from or tell them to go back.

Gay and lesbian Americans feel it when a stranger passes judgment on their parenting skills or the love that they share. Muslim Americans feel it when they’re stared at with suspicion because of their faith. Any woman who knows the injustice of earning less pay for doing the same work — she knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in.

So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy… It should give you the ability to connect. It should give you a sense of compassion and what it means to overcome barriers.”

Barack Obama, in his commencement speech to Morehouse graduates.

Presidential terms are measured by sweeping laws and stirring events, but legacies are about enduring ideas. The one Barack Obama has in mind will drive most everything he tries to do in the next four years: assuring that America is a place where anyone can make it.

There is no moonshot here, no call to end tyranny in our time.

What Obama wants written in the first paragraph of history is that he helped deliver a better life for the people struggling in the richest nation on earth.

AP’s Ben Feller on Obama’s legacy.

I have to admit cynicism creeps in about half the time I think about US politics these last four years. House Republicans are crazy hostage-takers, Obama folds too easy when things get tough, and American people suffer as a result.

But I never doubt what Obama’s vision is and that he wants to equal the playing field. His list of accomplishments, printed out and in bullet-points, is amazing. However, the feeling hasn’t changed. While half the time my thoughts tend to be cynical, I still balance that with a cautious optimism that the United States can be a more equal and considerate society in the next four years.

"I trust you, Obama"
I found this on the walkway outside the middle school where I work.
Typically we underestimate students’ political knowledge. Sure, many of them parrot what their parents or the TV says, but that’s only if teachers and parents aren’t teaching them civic literacy and knowledge. We owe it to students to include them in conversations and to present the issues without our opinion to see where they stand and what they observe.
I frequently remind my team that we manage students the same way we manage adults. We all want the same basic things. And this message, scrawled in child writing and duct taped to the ground, echoes what so many adults across America feel, and why they voted for Obama. It’s equal parts policy and gut feeling.
That being said, I trust you too, Obama.

"I trust you, Obama"

I found this on the walkway outside the middle school where I work.

Typically we underestimate students’ political knowledge. Sure, many of them parrot what their parents or the TV says, but that’s only if teachers and parents aren’t teaching them civic literacy and knowledge. We owe it to students to include them in conversations and to present the issues without our opinion to see where they stand and what they observe.

I frequently remind my team that we manage students the same way we manage adults. We all want the same basic things. And this message, scrawled in child writing and duct taped to the ground, echoes what so many adults across America feel, and why they voted for Obama. It’s equal parts policy and gut feeling.

That being said, I trust you too, Obama.

Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.

And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

Michelle Obama

… I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit — the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us…
I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt… It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential — and become full-grown.

President Obama, back in 2006.