There is an amazing interview of President Obama by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in Vanity Fair. I’ll give you one extended quote from Obama, but you really should read the whole thing:
Early in my presidency, I went to Cairo to make a speech to the Muslim world. And in the afternoon, after the speech, we took helicopters out to the pyramids. And they had emptied the pyramids for us, and we could just wander around for a couple hours [at] the pyramids and the Sphinx. And the pyramids are one of those things that live up to the hype. They’re elemental in ways that are hard to describe. And you’re going to these tombs and looking at the hieroglyphics and imagining the civilization that built these iconic images.
And I still remember it—because I hadn’t been president that long at that point—thinking to myself, There were a lot of people during the period when these pyramids were built who thought they were really important. And there was the equivalent of cable news and television and newspapers and Twitter and people anguishing over their relative popularity or position at any given time. And now it’s all just covered in dust and sand. And all that people know [today] are the pyramids.
Sometimes I carry with me that perspective, which tells me that my particular worries on any given day—how I’m doing in the polls or what somebody is saying about me … for good or for ill—isn’t particularly relevant. What is relevant is: What am I building that lasts?
More than anything, this interview reminds me of why I love Barack Obama, his ambition, his introspection, and his humility. And it reminds me to look beyond today’s politics and news cycles and take the long view.
Also published on Medium.