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Obama gives Al tips about sending son Nick off to college: 'You can't let him see you cry'

The former president, who has sent two daughters to college, also had some advice for how Al can "bribe" Nick, 19, to spend time with him once he's in school.
Former President Barack Obama had some advice for Al Roker on how to deal with dropping his son Nick, 19, off at college this fall.
Former President Barack Obama had some advice for Al Roker on how to deal with dropping his son Nick, 19, off at college this fall.TODAY/ Getty Images

As Al Roker braces for the heart-wrenching moment he has to drop off the youngest of his three children at college this fall, he sought advice from a president who has recently gone through becoming an empty-nester himself.

Former President Barack Obama, who said it was like "open-heart surgery" when he dropped his daughter Malia off at Harvard in 2017, had some words of wisdom for Al as part of his exclusive interview on TODAY Wednesday.

Al's son, Nick, 19, who has special needs, found out in December that he had been accepted to college.

"Well, first tip is you are going to weep copiously when you drop Nick off at college," Obama said. "But you can’t let him see you cry, so you drop him off and then you quickly leave, and then you cry in the car."

Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama have experienced that emotional moment twice. Malia, 23, was the first to go off to school and then Sasha, 20, had Michelle trying hold off tears in 2019 when the Obamas dropped her off at the University of Michigan.

The presidential couple has since found the shortcut to spending more time with their daughters.

"Tip number two is you try to bribe them with like nice trips," Obama said. "'Hey, we’re going to Hawaii, you guys want to come?' so that they show up."

Al, 67, is no stranger to watching his kids go off into the world, as his daughter, chef Courtney Roker Laga, 34, tied the knot earlier this year, while his younger daughter, Leila Roker, 22, is a journalist who is currently based in Paris.

But Nick is the youngest child of Al and wife Deborah Roberts, so the house will be awfully quiet once he leaves in the fall.

“I just ... I don’t know that I’m ready for him to leave yet,” Al said on TODAY in October after sharing that Nick was visiting colleges. “Time marches on.”

While the leaving will be hard, seeing Nick grow into his own man will be the reward.

"Michelle always said, and she’s absolutely right about this, our job as parents is to teach our kids not to need us," Obama said. "And it hurts, but when you see them as accomplished, confident, kind, thoughtful, responsible people, then you know you’ve done your job.”

Obama's empty-nester advice was part of a wide-ranging conversation with Al that also included the former president's thoughts on Russian President Vladimir Putin and a discussion of Obama's new Netflix show, "Our Great National Parks," which starts streaming on Wednesday.

You can watch Al's full conversation with Obama on TODAY's streaming channel on Peacock, TODAY All Day.