When Barack Obama became president of the United States in Jan. 2009, the whole world was watching. The United States was in the midst of the worst recession since the early 20th century, embroiled in two foreign wars, and lacking trust in their current president, George W. Bush, who had a 22% approval rating when he left office.
Obama ran on a campaign of “hope” and “change,” promising to be a president who spoke for all Americans.
The past eight years have tested Obama’s steel and his resolve. But through it all, one thing remained constant: his enduring, and overwhelming, humanity. Whether or not you’re a fan of his policies, it is hard to criticize his character.
Obama has always been a people’s president — the type of person you’d like to drink a beer with, share a laugh with, even entrust your child to.
This is demonstrably evident in the photos of the president that have been released to the public. The best and most moving images of the president are not taken at high-level diplomatic meetings, but rather at dances, easter egg hunts, and on basketball courts.
These images capture the infectious nature of the president’s smile, his sense of humor, and his enduring empathy for the people he worked with and governed.
Of the thousands of images taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, the following 44 stood out in their portrayal of the president — showing the truest version of Obama: quietly confident, outgoing, and always stoic.
1) Here he is playing with a baby in June 2015.
2) And playing with another baby in September 2015.
3) And yet another baby in February 2015.
4) In this iconic photo, Obama lets a young boy, who recently had his hair buzzed, pat the president's head, "to see if it felt the same as his" in May 2008.
5) In 2011, Marine corporal Dakota Meyer (right) won a congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in Afghanistan. His one request to the president? To drink a beer together.
6) Obama was notorious for running late to events. Here he is jogging to meet with supporters in Cleveland in October 2010.
7) Here he is jogging with (his best friend) Vice President Joe Biden for a “Let’s Move” campaign promotional video in February 2014.
8) The president needed to find a dog that could keep up with his jogging habits in March 2009.
9) President Obama finds moments of tenderness when he can, like this moment with first lady Michelle Obama. The pair are in a freight elevator on their way to one of the inaugural balls in 2009.
10) Of course, they experience a lot of serious moments, like this one, during an event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches in March 2015.
11) Obama could cut up a rug, like here, where he is dancing with Michelle at the Governors Ball in February 2009.
12) The president and his wife Michelle dance at the Governors Ball in 2010.
13) President Obama dances with outgoing Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard in May 2015.
14) The president dances with school children in Dillingham, Alaska, in Sept. 2015.
15) Obama poses with Usain Bolt backstage at a "Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative" in Kingston, Jamaica, in April 2015.
16) He was called upon to comfort people in need, like after the devastating Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
17) Obama comforted victims after a tornado in Alabama in 2011.
18) He met with those who have experienced loss, of all kinds, like Sgt. Carlos Evans, a wounded warrior, in 2010.
19) He had a friendly relationship with the Dalai Lama, who he met here in June of 2016.
20) And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he embraced during a January 2015 trip to New Delhi.
21) And the cast of the Broadway musical "Hamilton," which he saw in New York City in July 2015.
22) Sometimes things got a little heated in the Oval Office. Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, throws a fake punch at the president in March 2015.
23) Here, Obama and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller appreciate a rainbow in April 2015.
24) He drank ice tea with a straw during a trip to Missouri in July 2014.
25) The president learned how to pour his own pint, during a visit to Dublin, Ireland in 2011.
26) Obama was an athlete in his own right — like when he threw out the first pitch at a Nationals game in March, 2010. Here he practices in the Rose Garden.
27) He would often play pick-up basketball games, like here with members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries in 2009.
28) Sometimes, he'd bring the game into the Oval Office, including tossing a football in June 2009.
29) Barack and Michelle pose for a sporty Instagram picture in 2015.
30) Obama was “that guy” on the kiss cam at an Olympic exhibition game between the US and Brazil in July 2012. This picture was actually taken on the second attempt to induce a kiss from the presidential couple, after they were booed when they failed to recognize their first appearance on the big screen.
31) Here, Barack and Michelle goof off at a National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) event in 2009.
32) He’s a family man, through and through, like when he and daughters Sasha and Malia watched mom Michelle deliver her DNC address in September 2012.
33) Obama was also prone to spontaneously dancing. Here he breaks into dance along with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete upon arrival at the airport in Dar Es Salaam.
34) Bo, the First Dog, was definitely man’s best friend as he plays with Obama on the South Lawn in May 2009.
35) Here’s the “leader of the free world” being attacked by a baby in 2009.
36) And by Spiderman in 2012.
37) Yes, there is a presidential entry to awkward family portraits. This beauty was taken in 2011 in the Oval Office — not your typical living room.
38) Obama was at times a prankster. Trip Director Marvin Nicholson was unaware about his sudden weight gain during this visit to the University of Texas at Austin in 2010.
39) Obama knew how to kick his feet up. Here, he talks on the phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009.
40) He was a master of the fist bump. He greets custodian Lawrence Lipscomb in 2009.
41) And U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2010.
42) Sometimes he just wanted to be invisible.
43) Obama stops for a spontaneous snack at a supermarket in Virginia in 2009.
44) Thank you, President Obama.