Born in Chicago on January 17, 1964, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is an attorney who has been married to Barack Hussein Obama since 1992.
In 1985 Miss Robinson received her B.A. in Sociology from Princeton University, where she minored in African American Studies. According to FrontPageMagazine reporter Jacob Laksin, “In a [February 2008] interview with Newsweek, [Michelle] Obama reveals that she got into Princeton … not on the strength of her grades, which she admits were unexceptional, but thanks to her brother Craig, a star athlete and gifted student who preceded her to the school. As a ‘legacy’ candidate and a beneficiary of affirmative action, Michelle Obama was granted an opportunity that others more accomplished were denied.”
At Princeton, Miss Robinson wrote a senior thesis entitled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community,” (see complete thesis under the Resources column on the left-hand side of this page). Some excerpts from the thesis include the following:
- “Predominately white universities like Princeton are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the white students comprising the bulk of their enrollments.”
- “[My Princeton experiences] “will likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant.”
- “I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong. Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second.”
- “Earlier in my college career, there was no doubt in my mind that as a member of the Black community I was somehow obligated to this community and would utilize all of my present and future resources to benefit this community first and foremost.”
- “In defining the concept of identification or the ability to identify with the black community … I based my definition on the premise that there is a distinctive black culture very different from white culture.”
After graduating from Princeton, Miss Robinson went on to attend Harvard Law School, where she was accepted under the aegis of a minority outreach program. As one of her friends would later reflect, Robinson recognized that she had been privileged by affirmative action and was very comfortable with that.
After law school, Miss Robinson returned to Chicago to work for the law firm Sidley Austin. There she met her future husband, Barack Obama, who was working for the firm as a summer associate. In the summer of 1991 she joined the staff of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
In 1992, as noted earlier, Miss Robinson wed Barack Obama.
In 1993 she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of the organization Public Allies, an entity that sought to cultivate future community activist leaders by arranging apprenticeships for young adults with non-profit organizations.
In 2002, Mrs. Obama began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals (UCH), first as Executive Director for Community Affairs and later, beginning in May 2005, as Vice President for Community and External Affairs. In these roles, she was heavily involved in managing UCH’s “business diversity program.” In early 2005, shortly after her husband had been sworn in as a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Illinois, Mrs. Obama’s annual salary at UCH was suddenly raised from $121,910 to $316,962.
Mrs. Obama also served as a salaried board member of TreeHouse Foods, Inc., a major Wal-Mart supplier with whom she cut ties immediately after her husband made comments critical of Wal-Mart at an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 14, 2007.
Mrs. Obama was honored by Essence magazine in May 2006 as one of the “World’s Most Inspiring Women”; by Vanity Fair in July 2007 as one of the “World’s Best-Dressed Women”; and by 02138 magazine in September 2007 as #58 in “The Harvard 100” list of that university’s most influential alumni.
In a February 2007 appearance with her husband on 60 Minutes, Mrs. Obama implied that America’s allegedly rampant white racism posed a great physical threat to her husband, who had just announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential race. Said Mrs. Obama: “As a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station.” (Mrs. Obama’s implication ignored the fact that the vast majority of violence against black Americans is committed by other blacks. According to the U.S. Justice Department, for instance, between 1976 and 2005, fully 94 percent of black murder victims were killed by black attackers.)
On February 1, 2008, Mrs. Obama said, “I don’t think there is a person of color in this country that doesn’t struggle with what it means to be a part of your race versus what the majority thinks is right.”
During a February 18, 2008 speech in Milwaukee on behalf of her husband’s presidential campaign, Mrs. Obama declared, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”
On another campaign stop that same month, Mrs. Obama told a Zanesville, Ohio audience: “The salaries don’t keep up with the cost of paying off the debt. So you’re in your forties, still paying off your debt at a time when you have to save for your kids. Barack and I were in that position. The only reason we’re not in that position is that Barack wrote two best-selling books.… It was like Jack and his magic beans. But up until a few years ago, we were struggling to figure out how we would save for our kids.” “We left corporate America,” Mrs. Obama added, “which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do. Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.”