Former President Barack Obama opened up to David Letterman about how emotional he was after dropping off his oldest daughter, 19-year-old Malia, at college, saying he cried and was “basically useless” during the process.

Obama was the first guest on Letterman’s new Netflix talk show series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman,” which started streaming on Friday. During his interview, the former president opened up about the emotional day that he dropped Malia off at Harvard University in September of last year.

“It was like open-heart surgery, man,” Obama, echoing sentiments that he made last fall. “One of the best descriptions I ever heard of children is it’s like having your heart outside your body. They’re not that smart, and they’re kind of wandering around, crossing streets, getting on airplanes. You’re like, ‘Come!’ You want to put ’em back in.”

RELATED: Sad dad: Obama said dropping off Malia at college was a “bit like open-heart surgery”

The former president also revealed that helping Malia move into her new college dorm room was a family affair for the Obamas. Former first lady Michelle Obama and little sister Sasha helped make Malia’s room feel like home.

“It was interesting to see how everyone handled things different. Michelle, she had like cleaning glove, you know? One of those yellow ones. She’s scouring the bathroom and has all these plans about how everything should be,” he told Letterman. “And Sasha, it was really touching, because Sasha tries to be cool, so she didn’t want to admit that she’s going to miss her sister. But she’s neater than her sister, so she was helping to make the bed and fold clothes. [Sasha was] just being really quiet about it, but in a way that was really moving and touching.”

Former President Obama, on the other hand, wasn’t much help during the process:

I was basically useless. Everybody had seen me crying and misting up for the previous three weeks. So, Malia, who is very thoughtful, she says, ‘Hey, Dad, you know, I’ve got this lamp in this box. Can you put this desk lamp together?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So, I grab it. It should have taken three minutes or five minutes. It had one of those little wrenches—the little tool. It only had like four parts or something. I’m sitting there and I’m just toiling away at this thing, and it’s taken half an hour. Meanwhile, Michelle has finished scrubbing and she’s organizing closets and all this, and I was just pretty pathetic. I held it together in front of Malia, and then when we drove away, Secret Service is in the front, and they’re just looking ahead. They’re pretending they can’t hear me in the back sniveling. But the ritual of it was powerful.


Thankfully, the sad dad is able to keep in touch with his firstborn thanks to the advent of technology, telling Letterman that his daughter texted him as soon as he got home, saying, “I get home, and she knows I’m pathetic, so she texted me hearts.”

During the interview, former President Obama also shared that he keeps his “dad moves” dancing “in the pocket” because we all know “dads who get out of the pocket.”


Netflix is streaming the first full episode of “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman” now, and it will release new episodes once a month until all six episodes are released.

Elizabeth Vale is a contributor for Rare.
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