Careers

President Obama: Dropping Malia off at Harvard was 'like open-heart surgery'

President Barack Obama with his daughter Malia.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
President Barack Obama with his daughter Malia.

As parents dropped their kids off at college this fall, President Barack Obama said what many fathers across the country may have been thinking.

At an event for the Beau Biden Foundation, Obama reflected on how quickly kids grow up. "It happens fast," he said, as reported in a video posted by WDEL radio. "I dropped off Malia at college, and I was saying to Joe [Biden] and Jill [Biden] that it was a little bit like open-heart surgery."

Even though it was difficult to move Malia into her dorm room at Harvard, he managed to hold back tears while on campus. "I was proud that I did not cry in front of her, but on the way back, the Secret Service was all looking straight ahead, pretending they weren't hearing me as I sniffled and blew my nose," he joked. "It was rough."

President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia Obama walk hand-in-hand.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia Obama walk hand-in-hand.

Moments like these may be melancholy, but the former president said they remind us of what's important in life. "It's a reminder that at the end of our lives, that whatever else we have accomplished, the things that we will remember are the joys that our children — and hopefully way later, grandchildren — will bring us," he said.

Small moments are what make life meaningful, he said. "Holding her hand, swinging on a swing, listening to them talk about what had happened at school. Simple stuff, but ultimately, that's what matters. That's what you're going to care about."

President Barack Obama hugs his daughter Malia.
Scott Olson | Getty Images
President Barack Obama hugs his daughter Malia.

Appreciating small moments is something that former Vice President Joe Biden has spoken about as well. When he accepted a Father of the Year Award in 2016, he told the crowd that one of the most important parts of parenthood is showing up for milestones big and small.

"There's no such thing as quality time," he explained. "Every important thing — if you think about it — every important interaction from your child occurred because you're there."

Parents can support their children just by being present in their lives. "Half of life is just being there," said Biden.

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