In a remarkable 36 hours of his presidency, Barack Obama carried a momentous secret but gave no hint of it as he consoled tornado victims, delivered a college commencement address and cracked jokes at a black-tie dinner.
What few insiders knew was that the US leader had given the go-ahead on Friday for the military operation which would end with the death of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, target of the world’s most intense manhunt.
After giving his consent, Mr Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia left the White House on a busy day of travel, with three stops in two states.
In Alabama, one of several Southern states battered by fierce tornados, Mr Obama assumed his role as consoler in chief as he and the first lady visited communities in Tuscaloosa which had been flattened by the twisters.
Next stop was Cape Canaveral in Florida, even though Endeavour’s launch, the next to last one before the shuttle fleet is retired, had been scrapped for technical reasons well before Mr Obama left Alabama. He stuck to his schedule, touring Nasa facilities with his family. He also met privately with wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a fellow Democrat. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is the shuttle commander.
The president also delivered an evening commencement address at Miami Dade College before returning to Washington.
Mr Obama had a stoic demeanour throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, he attended the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner and lobbed a few barbs at Donald Trump after having endured weeks of attacks by the prospective Republican presidential candidate over whether the president was born in the United States.
On Sunday, Mr Obama headed for the Andrews Air Force Base golf course, as he does on many weekends when the weather is nice. But he played only nine holes, instead of his customary 18, and left after about four hours. The reporters who accompany him on public outings thought the chilly, rainy weather played into his decision to leave hours earlier than usual.
Actually, Mr Obama was heading for a meeting to review final preparations for the operation against bin Laden.
In retrospect, there were some meagre clues that something may have been going on.
Mr Obama went straight to the Oval Office in his golf shoes, instead of to the residence as he normally does after golf. Photos showed him looking tense and clench-jawed.
All became clear late on Sunday when he told the nation shortly before midnight that bin Laden had been killed at the hands of US Navy Seals.