TODAY   |  March 30, 2010

Obama on faith, family and basketball

In an exclusive interview, President Obama jokes with TODAY’s Matt Lauer about his “blown up” basketball tournament bracket and discusses the daily devotionals he receives on his BlackBerry, as well as his family's adjustment to White House life.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> did just that.

>>> but let's begin with more of our conversation with president obama . after talking about issues like afghanistan and health care , we had a chance to see a more personal side of the president. let's talk about faith a little bit. there's been a lot of tension, and had been in the previous year, about your family's choice of a church here in washington . as of yet, i haven't heard that you've settled on an exact church. where do you stand on that and how important a decision is that for your family?

>> you know what? we've decided for now is not to join a single church. the reason is because michelle and i have realized we are very disruptive to services. now, there are a whole bunch of churches who would say it's okay, but when every other member of the congregation has to be magged at the time you attend? what we've done is we occasionally go across the street to st. john's, which is the church that a lot of presidents have traditionally gone to. we love the chapel up in camp david is probably our favorite place to worship because it is just families up at camp david . there's a wonderful chaplain up there who does just a great job. usually when we go to camp david we go to church on sundays there. in the meantime, what we've done, there was a prayer circle of pastors from across the country who during the campaign would say a prayer for me or send a devotional. we kept that habit up and it's a wonderful group because it is a mix of some very conservative pastors, some very liberal pastors, but all who pray for me and michelle and the girls and i get a daily devotional on my blackberry which is a wonderful thing.

>> it's a spirituality meets high-tech. very good. your girls have been here in the white house for more than a year, along with michelle . when i spoke to mrs. obama not long ago, i said the normalcy thing, how's that going? here comes summer. a lot of kids i'm going to summer camp , i'm going to sleep away camp. how do you handle that?

>> i handle it like every other dad which is saying, don't you want to spend it with me? so the happiest thing about the past year and a half has been the girls' adjustment. they have just been terrific. they're doing well in school. they're not as constrained. they can wander around. their secret service protection is a lot more low key . so they've got soccer, they're got basketball, they go sleep over at their friend's houses. sometimes i've got 12 little girls screaming on the third floor of the white house . and they made a great adjustment. and during the summer they're going to do what their friends are doingfy wasn't in the oval office .

>> so it is possible to have a normal summer as a first daughter.

>> it is. it is. now i get a little worried about them when they're teenagers because i think that's the time when you're already embarrassed about your parents, and then imagine if your dad's in the newspaper every day and people are calling him an idiot. i feel a little worried about that. on the other hand, malia and sasha have just turned out to be unbelievably well adjusted kids. the thing that's most important to me is that they are so respectful of everybody and haven't gotten on any airs. i attribute that directly to michelle because she wouldn't put up with any of that stuff.

>> okay. four names. butler, duke, west virginia , michigan state . how's your bracket look, first of all?

>> it is completely blown up. it is a sign that i was paying singular focus on health care .

>> that's your excuse and you're sticking with it?

>> well, you know, i'd done great in the first several rounds. i was in first place. i think espn calculated i was in the top 90th percentile. duke's the one number one seed i didn't pick to at least get to the final four.

>> but you've got three schools left that represent three schools you carried in the election, one school that represents a state did you not carry. so who you picking?

>> i'm not going to pick now. you just explained why it is bad politics. but just to show i'm not biased, i think west virginia has a great chance. and i did not win that state but they've got a really good team.

>> so west virginia over duke.

>> i think the winner of west virginia -duke will end up winning the championship.

>> you don't see a number five seed winning the championship. good luck with that.

>> thank you.

>> matt having a talk with the president.

>> that looks like "pardon the interruption" there.

>>> next hour, we'll talk about more serious subjects, talking to president obama about the very nasty tone in washington right now. which party may be most responsible and whether his political struggles over the past year have given him new respect for george w. bush 's presidency.

>>> the big story of the