Can you believe that the former First Lady shared quarters with her brother where they slept in a living room separated by a makeshift room divider? Yes, that’s how normal her childhood was. Michelle’s father, Fraser Robinson, was a city pump operator and a Democratic precinct captain, while her mother, Marian, worked as a secretary at Spiegel’s. The family lived in a small bungalow on Chicago’s South Side. Michelle and her brother, Craig, learned to read at home at the age of four. And when they joined school, both skipped second grade as they were exceptionally good with their studies. In fact, by the sixth grade, Michelle had started taking classes in her school’s gifted program. As for high school, she attended the city’s first magnet high school, Whitney M. Young, where she served as the student government treasurer. Before becoming the First Lady, Michelle also worked as a lawyer at Chicago city administrator, writer, and community outreach worker.
Although Michelle and Craig are 21 months apart, they were often misunderstood for being twins as toddlers. Craig was Michelle’s first crush, and she felt protected around him while growing up. Their bond only got stronger with time. When Michelle followed her athletic brother to Princeton, she was known as “Craig’s little sister.” Craig was among the basketball stars, and that made him a famous kid around campus. He followed his passion through college and is still doing so. For people who do not know, Craig is an ESPN basketball analyst. By no surprise, Michelle and Craig’s childhood highlight was being their competitive selves. Of course, like any other siblings, it only started with playing catch in and around the house. Michelle and Craig have often spoken about how sports have always been a big part of their family. They were excellent athletes while growing up, and their children are now continuing the legacy.
Of course, sports were an innate part of Michelle and Craig’s childhood, but an equal emphasis was given to education. The siblings went to Princeton, where Michelle took up sociology and African-American studies. Then, after attaining her B.A. degree in 1985, she joined Harvard Law School. Michelle’s first job was at Sidley Austin LLP as a junior associate specializing in intellectual property law. It was there that she met her future husband, Barack Obama, who knew at the time that the couple would soon become a role model for people across the world. Michelle’s career also included becoming an Assistant Dean at the University of Chicago and a Vice-President at a medical school. After reorienting her duties as the First Lady and a mother of two young daughters, she also initiated many educational initiatives, one of the most recognized ones being “Reach Higher,” an initiative to encourage young people to complete their education.
Michelle Obama started her career at a corporate law firm, but she did not see herself doing just that. The death of her father and a close friend made her realize that when her time comes, she would not have given society enough, and that made her quit her job. In 1991, Michelle chose a more fulfilling career – public service. She started in the field by assisting Mayor Richard Daley and then became the assistant commissioner of planning and development for Chicago. As Michelle joined the Chicago office of Public Allies, she initiated a leadership training program for young adults to develop skills and serve in public sectors. The former First Lady dedicated many years and initiatives to convince youngsters to give back to society with the help of community service. She served her duty in the public service right until her husband was sworn in as the new president in 2009.
Despite having a flourishing career, Michelle put everything on hold so that she could be her husband’s biggest cheerleader. When Barack Obama first ran for president in 2007, she focused on giving talks around the country. And when he won his second term, Michelle left her job at the University of Chicago Medical Center to become the First Lady. The couple often made sacrifices so the other could have a more fulfilling job. Before Michelle stepped down from her role at the medical center, she had taken multiple career leaps. At that time, Barack supported her by taking up more jobs and responsibilities as Michelle took pay cuts that came with choosing different career paths. It is truly heartening to see how the couple took turns to make each other shine. In 2020, Michelle Obama’s documentary film, Becoming, was released. It showcases how the loving couple supported each other’s careers while raising children.
Most people have seen Barack Obama impress his audience with his words. But only a few know that even Michelle is an excellent orator. She supported her husband’s campaigns even before he was elected for the top job. The couple won many hearts with their captive speeches and interviews in their tenure at the White House and quickly became a household name for people around the world. Even today, they command the stage when present in a room. Over the years, we have seen Michelle address several issues, such as childhood obesity, education, and women’s rights, among others. She gave several speeches during her time as the First Lady. The ones that still leave people amazed include her address at the Democratic National Convention at Denver, CO on August 26, 2008, and her speech on International Women’s Day in Washington, DC on March 8, 2016. Michelle’s feelings towards the topic and her ability to strike a chord with the audience make her a world-class speaker and a true reformer.
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2017, the former First Lady weighed in on its impact. In an interview with NBC’s Today show, she said that a lot had changed after the campaign, but it could take years for a more significant impact. Mrs. Obama emphasized how education for girls could pave a solid path for their future, and for that to happen, the change needs to be brought about now. The next generation of women with a good education should not feel the need to fight for equality in paychecks, choosing professions, and sacrificing their careers to take care of their children.
Michelle has invested in many initiatives for girls’ education, and with this interview, she tried to get her point across. She believes that change is not a direct path, and a lot of work goes into it. One of Michelle’s most empowering statements on the show was, “It’s up to the women out there to say, ‘Sorry. Sorry you feel uncomfortable, but I’m now paving the way for the next generation.’”
We discovered Michelle’s love for organic food when she developed an organic garden in the White House. It was not a surprise as the former First Lady was already involved in initiatives focused on organic farming, fighting against junk food, and childhood obesity. It was a bold (and the right) move, and let us admit, it was time for someone to bring this up and give it the attention it deserved. When she was at the White House, Michelle insisted that the cooks use only organic ingredients to serve the family and the guests. She built a 1,100-square-foot garden with the help of 23 fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, where she grew fresh vegetables and obtained fresh honey. Her idea was to develop a habit among children to grow fresh produce, which would teach them the significance of organic ingredients, and why buying veggies and fruits from a local market were necessary. So, besides everything that Michelle Obama does, she is also an influential fitness icon.
Although the former First Lady had humble beginnings, her kids had the privilege of being raised in the White House. Besides, having a father who is the president of the country and one of the most powerful men in the world can make anyone complacent while growing up. But Michelle was well aware of that even before the day arrived for her. She wanted to impart the same values that she grew up with in her daughters and in no way tried to raise them as spoiled brats. Michelle’s daughters had to comply with set timings and disciplines. In many interviews, she mentioned how she would make her daughters clean their own rooms. Like every mom, she imparted the values of being grounded, which indeed builds the foundation of a growing child’s character. Of course, even Michelle and Barack had to overcome several challenges to make life as normal as possible for their kids