The Washington Post (April 14) reported President Obama's off-the-cuff remark during a meeting with donors in Chicago held on April 13th under the title: "Obama riffs with donors: Where are the cool phones, and did you hear about the emir?"

In this remark, he said:

I'm like, c'mon guys. I'm the president of the United States.

What does this phrase mean? A dictionary at hand tells me c’mon means "come on."

Is he boasting of his being president? Or he is bitching on absence of advanced communication gadgets available at the site? The copy in question reads:

The president, in an unscripted moment with donors in Chicago, was talking about the need to innovate in technology.

"The Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff," he said during a small fundraising event at a Chicago restaurant. "I'm like, c'mon guys, I'm the president of the United States. Where's the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up? It doesn't happen."

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    And, you can find lengthy discussion about the meaning of "I'm like, ..." here – Artem Apr 16 '11 at 4:38
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    I vote to close this question as being trollish in nature. – The Raven Apr 16 '11 at 12:07
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    @The Raven.I don’t know the word ‘trollish.’ If it means ‘provoking, or sensational’ which I got from Wikipedia, please understand that I have no intention to cast a provoking question by any mean as Japanese who have no reason for having any prejudice, preference, disliking or any special interest in politics and political figures of foreign countries. It has nothing to do with me. My interest exists only in linguistic matters, i.e, interpretation of English words and phrases that I’m unfamiliar with, and grammatical rules of English as an international communication tool. No more than that. – Yoichi Oishi Apr 16 '11 at 20:30
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    @Yoichi Bravo, bravo! – Daniel Mar 8 '12 at 13:59

Though the other answers gave a very good implication of hi utterance, I think the OP is trying to parse it too literally and so is not getting the grammatical function of the pieces (so that those pieces can be reused). So for 'I'm like "C'mon, guys, I'm the president" '

  • I'm like "...." - introduces something said or thinking. One could change the pronoun. It is mostly synonymous with "I said..." or "I said to myself..." or "My reaction could be described by...". A common way to repeat an interaction between two people, verbal or otherwise, is to say "I was like 'Your momma is ugly', and he was like 'No, she isn't.' and I was like 'Is so.' and then -she- was like 'Sorry, dude, he's right', and he was like 'whoa, that's harsh', and then he was all like making weird faces and then he barfed all over the car seat." That's why you're like 'It smells like some cow died in here'

  • C'mon, guys - "Come on" or "C'mon" is an imperative, which could literally mean 'Please follow me...' but here and usually means 'I am exasperated' when others (the 'guys' here) aren't doing something expected. So you could say "C'mon y'all, get off the lawn" or "Come on! The Nixon mask is better than the baby mask for a bank heist". Grammatically, it is saying "(you) come on" similar to "Come off it".

So that's the grammar. The register is pretty informal and colloquial, common in youthful talk. Coming from a former law professor, I'd guess it was meant as a deliberate change in register for effect, a little bit ironically, as though he were some teenager in a movie who was unexpectedly thrown in with the royal family of England and lots of laughs with the difference in speech.


"I'm like" - this can be, as @kiamlaluno said, an informal reporting verb meaning 'say'. However, it can also report unuttered thoughts. Things you wanted to say or were thinking but did not vocalise at the time.

My brother ate the last brownie and I was like "what the hell!" Here, I didn't necessarily confront my brother about his taking the brownie; I was angry/annoyed about it but didn't say anything.

"c'mon" - as you found, this is contraction of 'come on' and here (and often) is used jokingly/mockingly to mean "you can not be serious" or words to that effect.

You're scared? C'mon, it's just a little bunny rabbit. Here, I am surprised that my friend is scared of something so harmless and am lightly mocking.

"I'm the President of the United States" - Here he is saying that his position is important, exclusive, and therefore should carry with it privileges and gravitas. The President of the United States, if anybody, should expect to have cool gadgets and things. It is mock arrogance.

So, the whole quote put together basically means:

I was in the oval office and I realised that it was not very hi-tech. I thought, "Wow! Is this seriously it? I'm the President of the United States. I should have cool gadgets and things."

Hope that helps.


The phrase by itself is a boast, but in this context it's rather a lament.

He means that the public perception is that the President has all the latest gadgets available but it's not that way in reality.

  • Perhaps not so much the public perception as the Hollywood perception. – Kyralessa Apr 16 '11 at 16:03

He is justifying his thought of having really cool phones and stuff in his office by claiming 'after all' he is the president of United States.

  • /Josek. Thank you. Can you further elaborete to rephrase or define 'I'm like c'mon guys.' in plain word? – Yoichi Oishi Apr 16 '11 at 2:37
  • @Yoichi: Roughly, he is trying to say, "Come on people after all I am the big daddy (President) in here!" ;) – check123 Apr 16 '11 at 2:48
  • And I guess he is neither bitching nor boasting. He rather speaking on a lighter note. Probably, he is trying to encourage people by hinting that the current technology is not 'cool' enough for the President of United States and innovation is needed. – check123 Apr 16 '11 at 2:52

Instead of complaining, he might just be joking. He might not really desire the gadgets, but just make the statement to achieve a humorous effect.

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    In reflecting the situation the President is in, I came to think neither boasting nor complaining applies. He shouldn’t have done it before his supporters. Surely he must be joking. – Yoichi Oishi Apr 16 '11 at 10:33

Like is informally used to convey a person's reported attitude or feelings in the form of direct speech; it is used with that meaning even in a sentence that is not reporting an actual quotation.

So she comes into the room and she's like “Where is everybody?”

The previous sentence could be rewritten as the following sentence.

She came into the room and she was surprised to see few people.


Come on is said when one feels that someone is wrong or foolish.

Come on! Where did you read it?


What he is saying could be a complain, but considering the context, it seems more a joke, to me.

  • @Kiamlalluno / Joselk. An additional question. Could you explain me why the President, “I” am like” in the first person, singular form takes “C’mon guys” in plural form, in other word, why it isn’t “I’m like ‘a C’mon guy.’”? – Yoichi Oishi Apr 16 '11 at 8:25
  • @Yoichi Oishi Because, in that phrase, like is not used as in I am like a whale. C'mon guys is used to express disappoint, and it is directed to the interlocutor(s). – kiamlaluno Apr 16 '11 at 12:34

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