Barack Obama says he felt a sense of 'serenity' after Donald Trump's inauguration

  • Former president Barack Obama described the moment he left the presidency behind, in a BBC interview with Prince Harry
  • Obama believed his administration had "run a good race" during its eight years in office

When 44th U.S. President Barack Obama handed over the reins of the White House to Donald Trump, the former leader felt serene, even though there was work yet to be completed.

Speaking in an interview for the BBC Radio 4's Today Program, Obama described to Prince Harry of the U.K. royal family the moment he left the presidency behind.

"I think (it) was a satisfying feeling. That was mixed with all the work that was still undone. Concerns about how the country moves forward but, you know, overall there was serenity there. More than I would have expected," Obama said, as he reflected upon the work his administration had done.

Still, he believed his administration had "run a good race" during its eight years in office.

"One of the metaphors that I always used for the presidency is that you are a relay runner. There is the sense sometimes in any position of leadership that you, by yourself, do certain things and then it's over and I always viewed it as taking the baton from a whole range of people who had come before me. Some of whom had been heroic and some of whom had screwed up," Obama explained.

"But wherever you were in the race: if you ran hard, if you did your best, and that you then were able to pass that baton off successfully and the country was better off, the world was a little bit better off, then when you got there, then you could take some pride in that. And I think we were able to do that."

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Prince Harry on day 7 of the Invictus Games 2017 on September 29, 2017 in Toronto, Canada
Chris Jackson | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Prince Harry on day 7 of the Invictus Games 2017 on September 29, 2017 in Toronto, Canada

So when Jan. 20, 2017, rolled around, Obama felt a feeling of satisfaction, and that the work that he, first lady Michelle Obama and the administration had done had "preserved our integrity and left us whole."

Looking back, however, there are definitely elements that Obama misses from his time as president, in particular his team.

"Everything you do, every day you know can affect millions or billions of people in some cases. And to have really smart focused people who are there for the right reasons and who, over time, have built up trust and have learned to support each other and rely on each other — I miss that," said Obama, adding that the work itself was "fascinating."

Life after the White House

Since Obama left his role as president, he has remained somewhat active in the political space, weighing in on other elections such as those in France.

Meantime, Michelle Obama has turned her attention to philanthropy, officially launching the Obama Foundation with her husband earlier this year.

Former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle walk off the stage at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Illinois, October 31, 2017.
JIM YOUNG | AFP | Getty Images
Former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle walk off the stage at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Illinois, October 31, 2017.

Based in Chicago, the foundation is "a living, working start-up for citizenship" which looks at promoting how to be a good citizen within the 21st century.

In the interview with the prince, Obama said that while it is "hugely liberating" to be able to make his own decisions and not have a constantly full inbox, which he had as president, the "things that are important" to him haven't changed.

"I still care about making sure that the United States and the world is a place where kids get a decent education, where people who are willing to work hard are able to find a job that pays a living wage," he said.

"And so, although I don't have the same tools that I had as president, I have to rely more on persuasion than legislation, for example, a lot of the things that still motivate me and move me continue to this day."