Obama said that he feels he lost a direct connection to the American people in his first year in office because he focused too heavily on policy-making.
"If there's one thing that I regret this year is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values," Obama told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview at the White House.
The president said he made a mistake in assuming that if he focused on policy decisions, the American people would understand the reasoning behind them.
"That I do think is a mistake of mine," Obama said. "I think the assumption was if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we're making a good rational decision here, then people will get it."
Instead, the president said the American people ended up with a "feeling of remoteness and detachment" from the policy makers in Washington who are making big decisions.
"I think, you know, what they ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where there's these technocrats up here making decisions. Maybe some of them are good, maybe some of them aren't, but do they really get us and what we're going through?" he said.
Obama said he felt he could do a better job connecting to the American people in his second year in office.
"I think that I can do a better job of that, and partly because I do believe that we're in a stronger position now than we were a year ago," he said.
Obama said the U.S. efforts in Haiti could ultimately be good for national security.
"I want to make sure that when America projects its power around the world, it's not seen only when it's fighting a war," he said. "It's got to also be able to help people in desperate need."
Obama said the United States is being "very careful" about working with the Haitian government and the United Nations on earthquake recovery and relief efforts to avoid any perception the U.S. is there to take over and occupy Haiti.
"There's going to be a longer-term agenda, which is how do you reconstruct a nation that was already incredibly impoverished, that's now been flattened, and a government that, you know, basic records have been destroyed," the president said. "The basic instruments of government in that country are gone. We've got to help Haiti stand back up."
Asked by Stephanopoulos if the United States can afford to do that, Obama said, "We can't afford not to do it because Haiti is our neighbor."
"I think the world looks to us as the world's sole superpower, even though sometimes they complain about us, even though they snipe at us, deep down I think they understand that to those to whom much is given, much is expected," he said.
After a year in the White House, Obama said he is constantly stunned by how "poised, cheerful, well-adjusted" his daughters, Malia and Sasha have been.
"You know, they entered into a new school halfway in the year. They haven't missed a beat," the president said. "They haven't gotten an attitude; they haven't started acting any different than they were back in Chicago."
ABC News' Huma Khan contributed to this report.