6 Nov : When people ask Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn’t hesitate. First and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha’s mom. But before she was a mother – or a wife, lawyer, or public servant – she was Fraser and Marian Robinson’s daughter.
The Robinsons lived on the South Side of Chicago, on the top floor of a brick bungalow. Fraser was a pump operator for the Chicago water department. He was a hero to Michelle and her older brother Craig: even though he had multiple sclerosis, he hardly ever missed a day of work. Marian stayed home to raise Michelle and Craig, skillfully managing a busy household filled with love, laughter, and important life lessons. Fraser and Marian valued hard work, independence, and honesty. Today, their children point to their parents as their greatest teachers.
Michelle attended Chicago public schools, then Princeton. She studied sociology and African American studies, graduated in the class of 1985, and earned admission to Harvard Law School. When she returned to Chicago in 1988, she joined the law firm Sidley & Austin.
After a few years, Michelle realized that corporate law was not her calling. So she left to give back to the city she loves and to help others serve their communities. She worked for City Hall, becoming the assistant commissioner of planning and development. Then she became the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares young people for public service. Today, more than 350 young leaders have graduated from Public Allies Chicago.
Michelle got one great thing out of working for a corporate law firm-that’s where she met her husband, Barack. They were married in 1992. Today, they have two girls-Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. Like their mom, both girls were born on the South Side of Chicago.
Since 1996, Michelle has worked for the University of Chicago. As associate dean of student services, she developed the university’s first community service program. Later, she became the vice president of community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center. Under Michelle’s leadership, volunteering skyrocketed, both in the hospital and the community. Hospital employees serving in the community increased nearly fivefold, while community members volunteering in the hospital nearly quadrupled.
Since Barack began his campaign in early 2007, Michelle has met thousands of Americans, hearing their concerns and hopes for the future. As someone who knows the challenge of balancing work and family, Michelle has held roundtables with working women to hear about their struggle to do it all, particularly in a failing economy. In these discussions, Michelle heard the unique stories of military spouses, who work hard to keep their families together while their loved ones are away.
"We held a roundtable for military spouses at Fort Bragg," Michelle says. "It felt like the first time that many of these women had even been asked how they were doing. The tears and the stories went on and on. So we had another roundtable, and then another one."
If Barack is honored with the privilege of serving the United States as president, Michelle looks forward to continuing her work on the issues close to her heart-supporting military families, helping working women balance work and family, and encouraging national service.
"My first priority will always be to make sure that our girls are healthy and grounded," she says. "Then I want to help other families get the support they need, not just to survive, but to thrive.
"Policies that support families aren’t political issues. They’re personal. They’re the causes I carry with me every single day."