David Maraniss: Obama's Pursuit of Greatness





David Maraniss, an associate editor of The Post, is the author of “Barack Obama: The Story” and “First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton.” This column is part of an occasional series on the 2012 presidential candidates’ political lives.

On two historic election nights in Chicago, Barack Obama’s face has told the story. Four years ago in Grant Park, the solemnity of his expression after he took the stage revealed a man at last feeling the full weight of expectations. While his supporters cried and laughed and swayed with joy, his countenance reflected the responsibilities he soon would bear as president. On Tuesday, inside McCormick Place, his hair was grayer, his skin more creased, the crowd not so spontaneous. Yet his face betrayed an incredible lightness of being that went beyond the simple relief that he had won reelection.

Second terms often bring a new set of frustrations for a president, following the laws of diminishing returns and lame-duckiness. But history also shows that a second term is required to create, or to ratify, presidential greatness — and in that sense, Obama is not ambivalent about his ambitions. Since he first thought about being president, a notion that came to him relatively late compared with most politicians, he has wanted to be a great one. When he stepped onto the stage Tuesday night, he realized that he has that chance....



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