LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

A Less-Restrained Obama Finally Says 'Bucket'

With less than two years left in his presidency, President Obama has been less scripted and appears less confined by politics.

Politicians are usually very careful about the words they use. President Obama is no exception. But increasingly he seems to be just letting it fly.

During his standup routine at the White House Correspondents' dinner earlier this year, President Obama came right out and said it. Well, almost.

"After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me, 'Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?' And I said, 'Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.'"

The audience started to get the joke. And then the president continued: "Take executive action on immigration. Bucket. New climate regulations. Bucket, it's the right thing to do."

Add to that list: Normalizing relations with Cuba and pushing through trade legislation by teaming up with Republicans and taking on unions.

That's no joke.

Beyond policy, Obama seems more willing lately to just say it like he sees it. Take last week when he shouted down a heckler at a White House reception.

"Hold on a sec," Obama began. "OK. You know what? Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. No, no, no, no. Hey, listen, you're in my house. ... You're not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this. No. Shame on you, you shouldn't be doing this."

After the heckler was escorted out, Obama kept talking.

"As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers," the president said. "But not when I'm up in the house. My attitude is if you're eating the hors d'oeuvres..."

Then he turned and looked at Vice President Biden, who was nodding along.

"You know what I'm sayin'?" Obama asked.

Biden obliged. "I know what you're saying," the vice president said back.

"And drinkin' the booze," Obama continued. "I know that's right. Anyway, where was I?"

And then there was Obama's appearance on comedian Marc Maron's podcast. It's called WTF, and it means what you think it does. It's taped in Maron's garage.

On the podcast, Obama alluded to his youthful drug use and talked extensively about his own racial identity. And when talking about racism in America, he used a word that is potentially offensive to some.

"Racism," Obama said. "We are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not."

It's a point Obama has made before. But never quite so bluntly. Then on Friday, Obama did something else it's hard to imagine him doing earlier in his presidency.

In front of thousands at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine people killed in the massacre at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., he surprised mourners when he began to sing "Amazing Grace." Eventually, the crowd was on its feet:

Sure, he might have been off key in spots, but it simply didn't matter. For the record, he has sung before as president — or at least began to.

Here he was in 2012 beginning to sing Al Green's, "Let's Stay Together":

A month later, there he was at the White House singing, "Sweet Home Chicago" with B.B. King:

But he's never gone on quite so long as he did Friday in Charleston.

Obama, like other presidents before him, has complained about the controlled and cloistered nature of the presidency. It's why last year when he ditched his motorcade and went for a walk to the Department of the Interior, stopping to shake hands with tourists, he declared, "The bear is loose!"

In Obama's WTF podcast interview, he described a certain fearlessness that comes after six-and-a-half years in the White House.

"I've been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls," Obama said, "and I emerged, and I lived, and that's such a liberating feeling."

Or in other words — bucket.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)