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President Obama: Soul-Searching at 50?

The half-century mark is a critical milestone for any man. Being president makes it even more important, says this psychologist.


This week, after achieving a political milestone with the cliff-hanger on the debt-ceiling crisis, President Obama can now face a personal milestone: He turns 50 on Aug. 4.

For any man reaching 50, this midpoint in life is rife with emotions. First and foremost, there is the reality that no matter how young you feel, you have now officially entered the twilight zone of middle age. You may have laughed about joining AARP a few years ago, but now the discounts they offer are starting to look a little more attractive. By the way, did you just look twice at the Grecian Formula package in the hair care section of your drugstore? 

Turning 50 brings the standard regrets: faulty decisions, unaccomplished personal and professional goals, and relationships that could have turned out better. For many, this can become the grist for a midlife crisis. Some men handle it by chucking their spouse and getting the convertible sports car with the 27-year-old blond accessory.

Many more embrace a sense of triumph from having made it to the half-century mark, where they have learned from past mistakes, achieved success, cultivated positive relationships (especially with family) and have grown wiser from their experiences, giving them the tailwind to confidently head into the next phase of life.

As a man, Barack Obama is struggling with the same issues as the rest of us in reaching midlife. He has openly talked about feeling and looking older. On several occasions recently, he has jokingly acknowledged going gray, having bags under his eyes and having a few more dents and dings.

He has also discussed his trepidations about his daughters getting older and wearing shorter dresses when they begin to date in the future. Amie Parnes of Politico reports that in a recent interview, he lamented how becoming 50 will leave him with more yesterdays than tomorrows.

But Barack Obama is not like the rest of us. He is the president of the United States, the leader of the free world and the first black president of our nation. His transition to middle age will be different and unique.

Only President Obama himself knows the intricate internal processes and struggles he is experiencing at reaching the milestone of age 50. But given his public life and public persona, I will attempt an armchair analysis of what he is thinking and the areas of his life he is reassessing as he makes the transition to midlife.

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