"They are sweet, kind, funny, smart, respectful people, and they treat everybody with respect," Barack Obama said. "You know, we feel pretty good when ... they go to other folks' houses and when the parents say, 'Oh, you know, Malia, she's just so sweet,' or 'Sasha helped to pick up the dishes. What is it that you're doing?'" he said.
Malia and Sasha were 10 and 7, respectively, when their father was elected president, and growing up in the White House brought a unique set of challenges for the girls, now 18 and 15.
"They complained about Secret Service as they became teenagers," Obama said. "But as you might imagine, if you're a teenager having a couple of people with microphones and guns always following you around, that could grate on them. But they've handled it with grace, and I give Michelle most of the credit for how well they've done."
Obama also credited his daughters for making the White House feel like home when they first arrived.
"When you open a door and they're in their pajamas and they're, you know, wrestling with you and asking you, you know, to read to them and stuff, you know it starts feeling like home pretty quick," he said, adding, "It feels even more like home now because you have all these memories that were formed watching your kids grow up."
Watching his daughters grow was made a lot easier by the close proximity of the president's office and home, Obama said.
"It's one of the biggest benefits of being president that you really don't think about until you get here. I have never had to travel more than 30 seconds from home to office," Obama joked. "It's because of that that I've been able to maintain, you know, really a family life that has nurtured and sustained me during this time."
But as the Obamas prepare to leave the White House, the president is also preparing to say goodbye to a group of people who have been with him throughout his presidency: his staff.
"The people here have been extraordinary. We had a farewell dinner for some of my senior staff, and — generally everybody likes to talk about how cool I was — I had trouble getting through just a few remarks, because not only do you appreciate the sacrifices they've made and the hours they've kept and the soccer games they missed and the birthday parties," Obama said. "The concentrated interactions and experience that you have here, I don't expect you can duplicate anyplace else."