(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

In the penultimate episode of the Presidential podcast, we examine Barack Obama's search for identity and how that quest has paralleled America's own complex reckoning with race.

"Trying to figure out his identity was really the story of his young life," says Washington Post journalist David Maraniss, author of Barack Obama: The Story. "And I think that search helps explain everything about him as president."

Our guests on this episode are Maraniss and David Axelrod, the chief political strategist for Obama's presidential campaigns.

Listen to the episode here or on iTunes:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Theodore Roosevelt's heartbreak and the way Lyndon Johnson exercised power. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what’s ’presidential’ has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation’s highest office.

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:

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