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Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama 2013 official portrait.jpg
Former First Lady of the United States
In office
January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Laura Bush
Succeeded by Melania Trump
Personal details
Born
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson

(1964-01-17) January 17, 1964 (age 60)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse Barack Obama (m. 1992)
Children Malia Ann Obama and Sasha Obama
Residences Washington, D.C.
Kenwood, Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater
Profession Lawyer

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is a former First Lady of the United States and the wife of the 44th president of the U.S., Barack Obama. She is also a lawyer and an author. She was the first African-American woman to serve as first lady.

Obama served as a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon.

After her husband's presidency, Obama's influence has remained high. In 2020, she topped Gallup's poll of the most admired woman in America for the third year running. In 2021, Obama was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Early Life

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Obama (right) with Barack Obama (left)

Obama was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson at Provident Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, Illinois on January 17, 1964.

Robinson's childhood home was on the upper floor of 7436 South Euclid Avenue in Chicago's South Shore community area, which her parents rented from her great-aunt, who had the first floor. She was raised in what she describes as a "conventional" home, with "the mother at home, the father works, you have dinner around the table". Her elementary school was down the street. She and her family enjoyed playing games such as Monopoly, reading, and frequently saw extended family on both sides. She played the piano, learning from her great-aunt, who was a piano teacher. The Robinsons attended services at nearby South Shore United Methodist Church. They used to vacation in a rustic cabin in White Cloud, Michigan. She and her 21-month-older brother, Craig, skipped the second grade.

Her father suffered from multiple sclerosis, which had a profound emotional effect on her as she was growing up. She was determined to stay out of trouble and be a good student, which was what her father wanted for her. By sixth grade, Michelle joined a gifted class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School (later renamed Bouchet Academy). She attended Whitney Young High School, Chicago's first magnet high school, established as a selective enrollment school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita. The round-trip commute from the Robinsons' South Side home to the Near West Side, where the school was located, took three hours.

Michelle recalled being fearful of how others would perceive her, but disregarded any negativity around her and used it "to fuel me, to keep me going". She recalled facing gender discrimination growing up, saying, for example, that rather than asking her for her opinion on a given subject, people commonly tended to ask what her older brother thought. She was on the honor roll for four years, took advanced placement classes, was a member of the National Honor Society, and served as student council treasurer. She graduated in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class.

Education

Robinson was inspired to follow her brother to Princeton University, which she entered in 1981. She majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985.

Robinson recalls that some of her teachers in high school tried to dissuade her from applying, and that she had been warned against "setting my sights too high". She believed her brother's status as a student in good standing (he graduated in 1983) may have helped her during the admission process, but she was resolved to demonstrate her own worth. She has said she was overwhelmed during her first year, attributing this to the fact that neither of her parents had graduated from college, and that she had never spent time on a college campus.

The mother of a white roommate reportedly tried to get her daughter reassigned because of Michelle's race. Robinson said being at Princeton was the first time she became more aware of her ethnicity and, despite the willingness of her classmates and teachers to reach out to her, she still felt "like a visitor on campus".

While at Princeton, Robinson became involved with the Third World Center (now known as the Carl A. Fields Center), an academic and cultural group who supported minority students. She ran their daycare center, which also offered after school tutoring for older children.

Robinson pursued professional study, earning her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1988.

Meeting Barack Obama

Defense.gov News Photo 101115-A-0193C-016 - President Barack Obama right Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and First Lady Michelle Obama enter the East Room of the White House to begin the Medal
Obama with her husband and Salvatore Giunta

She met Barack Obama when they were among the few African Americans at their law firm, Sidley Austin LLP. She was assigned to mentor him while he was a summer associate. Their relationship started with a business lunch and then a community organization meeting where he first impressed her. They were married on October 3, 1992.

Career

Following law school, Obama became an associate at the Chicago office of the law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met her future husband Barack. At the firm, she worked on marketing and intellectual property law. She continues to hold her law license, but as she no longer needs it for her work, she has kept it on a voluntary inactive status since 1993.

In 1991, she held public sector positions in the Chicago city government as an Assistant to the Mayor, and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became executive director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. She worked there nearly four years and set fundraising records for the organization that still stood twelve years after she had left.

In 1996, Obama served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the university's Community Service Center. In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs and, beginning May 2005, as vice president for Community and External Affairs.

She continued to hold the University of Chicago Hospitals position during the primary campaign of 2008, but cut back to part-time in order to spend time with her daughters as well as work for her husband's election. She subsequently took a leave of absence from her job.

First Lady of the United States (2009–2017)

During her early months as First Lady, Obama visited homeless shelters and soup kitchens. She also sent representatives to schools and advocated public service.

US Army 53373 First Lady Embarks on Mission to Help Military Families
Obama and General Charles R. Davis smile to the crowd before speaking on her mission to help military families, October 2009.
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Obama holding a sign with the hashtag "#bringbackourgirls" in May 2014
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Obama with members of the public in 2016

Some initiatives of First Lady Michelle Obama included advocating on behalf of military families, helping working women balance career and family, encouraging national service, and promoting the arts and arts education. Obama made supporting military families and spouses a personal mission and increasingly bonded with military families. In April 2012, Obama and her husband were awarded the Jerald Washington Memorial Founders' Award by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). The award is the highest honor given to homeless veteran advocates.

Let's Move!

Obama's predecessors Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush supported the organic movement by instructing the White House kitchens to buy organic food. Obama extended their support of healthy eating by planting the White House Kitchen Garden, an organic garden, the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt served as First Lady. She also had bee hives installed on the South Lawn of the White House. The garden supplied organic produce and honey for the meals of the First Family and for state dinners and other official gatherings.

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Obama and Ellen DeGeneres dance on the second anniversary of Let's Move!

In January 2010, Obama undertook her first lead role in an administration-wide initiative, which she named "Let's Move!", to make progress in reversing the 21st-century trend of childhood obesity. On February 9, 2010, the first lady announced Let's Move! and President Barack Obama created the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to review all current programs and create a national plan for change.

Michelle Obama said her goal was to make this effort her legacy: "I want to leave something behind that we can say, 'Because of this time that this person spent here, this thing has changed.' And my hope is that that's going to be in the area of childhood obesity." Her 2012 book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America is based on her experiences with the garden and promotes healthy eating.

Subsequent activities (2018–present)

In 2021, Obama announced that she was "moving toward retirement". Though she continues to be active in political campaigns, the former first lady is reducing the amount of work to spend more time with her husband.

Becoming

Obama's memoir, Becoming, was released in November 2018. By November 2019, it had sold 11.5 million copies. A documentary titled Becoming, which chronicles Obama's book tour promoting the memoir, was released on Netflix on May 6, 2020. She received Grammy Award for Best Audio Book, Narration & Storytelling Recording in 2020 for audio book.

Podcast

In July 2020, she premiered a podcast titled The Michelle Obama Podcast. In February 2021, Obama was announced as an executive producer and presenter on a children's cooking show, Waffles + Mochi. It was released by Netflix on March 16, 2021. On September 11, 2021, the Obamas attended a 9/11 memorial to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks. More recently, Regina Hicks had signed a deal with Netflix alongside her and Barack's Higher Ground production company to develop comedies. She received two Children's and Family Emmy Awards at the 1st Children's and Family Emmy Awards: for Outstanding Short Form Program (We the People) and Outstanding Preschool Animated Series (Ada Twist, Scientist).

Film and television

Obama made guest appearances in the television comedies, including Parks and Recreation in 2014, and Black-ish in 2022, receiving Black Reel Awards for Television nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress, Comedy Series. She produced the documentary film Crip Camp (2020), and the biographical drama film Rustin (2023).

The Light We Carry

On July 21, 2022, it was announced that Obama's next book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, would be published in November 2022. The book was published by Penguin Random House. In 2023, Obama received Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special nomination at the 75th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Netflix documentary film The Light We Carry: Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

Family

Obama and family of Christina Taylor Green 2011
Obama with family of Christina Taylor in 2011.

Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, is the head coach of the Oregon State University men's basketball team. Her father, Fraser Robinson, was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department. Her mother Marion Robinson stayed home to raise her and her brother Craig. Her children are Malia (born July 4, 1998) and Sasha (born June 10, 2001).

Michelle Obama quotes

Barack Obama family portrait 2011
Official portrait by Pete Souza of the Obama family in the Oval Office, December 11, 2011.
  • "I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them."
  • "When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high."
  • "Strong men, men who are truly role models, don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful."
  • "Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude."
  • "Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own."

Interesting facts about Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama at National Craft Museum, Delhi, 2010
Obama with children in Delhi, November 8, 2010
  • She was the first African American first lady of the United States of America.
  • Her brother Craig is only 21 months older than her so people thought they were twins when they were growing up.
  • Michelle Obama served as a role model for women.
  • She worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating.
  • Michelle Obama began the Let's Move! campaign to help stop the United State’s childhood obesity epidemic.
  • She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon.
  • Michelle skipped second grade.
  • Michelle Obama isn't a fan of the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, because she believes you continue to grow, change, learn and do different things even as an adult.

Awards and honors

In November 2023, Obama was named to the BBC's 100 Women list.

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2019 Grammy Awards Best Spoken Word Album Becoming Won
2023 Best Audio Book, Narration & Storytelling Recording The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times Won
2023 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special The Light We Carry: Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey Nominated

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Michelle Obama para niños

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