Print Article

Michelle Obama

aka Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama

(1964–)

Quick Facts

  • Born: January 17, 1964 (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Lives in: Chicago, IL
  • Zodiac Sign: Capricorn
  • Height: 5'11" (1.8m)
  • Family: husband Barack, daughters Malia and Natasha
  • Parents: Marian and Fraser Robinson
  • Religion: United Church of Christ
  • Education:
    –Graduated: Princeton University (1985) Major: Sociology
    Minor: African American Studies
    –Graduated: Harvard University Law School (1988)
    Earned law degree
  • Career:
    –Associate attorney, Sidley & Austin, 1988-1991
    –Assistant to the mayor, City of Chicago, 1991-1992
    –Assistant commissioner of planning and development, City of Chicago, 1992-1993
    –Executive director, Public Allies, 1993-1996
    –Associate dean of student services, director of University Community Service Center, University of Chicago, 1996-2002
    –Executive director, community affairs, University of Chicago, 2002-2005
    –Vice president, community and external affairs, University of Chicago Medical Center 2005- (Currently on leave)
» more
Michelle Obama

In the News: First lady Michelle Obama revealed on Wednesday (February 25, 2009) that the family plans to get a dog after their spring break trip this April. Barack and Michelle Obama promised their daughters a dog after the election.

Obama says her daughters have already been going back and forth on possible names. "Oh, the names are really bad," she said. "I don't even want to mention it...Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them. Moose. I'm like, no, come on, let's work with the names a little bit."

The Obamas don't have a particular dog in mind yet, but the first lady revealed that the family wants to rescue a Portuguese water dog. "Temperamentally, they're supposed to be pretty good," the first lady said. "From the size perspective, they're sort of middle of the road—it's not small, but it's not a huge dog. And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that's where we're leaning."

Biography: Lawyer, Chicago city administrator, community outreach worker and wife of President Barack Obama. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama was born January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois.

Michelle was raised on Chicago's South Side in a one-bedroom apartment. Her father, Frasier Robinson, was a city pump operator and a Democratic precinct captain. Her mother, Marian, was a Spiegel's secretary who later stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother, Craig. The family has been described as a close-knit one that shared family meals, read and played games together.

Craig and Michelle, 16 months apart in age, were often mistaken for twins. The siblings also shared close quarters; they slept in the living room with a makeshift sheet serving as their room divider. Both children were raised with an emphasis on education. The brother and sister learned to read at home by the age of four, and both skipped second grade.

By sixth grade, Michelle was attending gifted classes, where she learned French and took accelerated courses. She then went on to attend the city's first magnet high school for gifted children where, among other activities, she served as the student government treasurer. "Without being immodest, we were always smart, we were always driven and we were always encouraged to do the best you can do, not just what's necessary," her brother Craig, has said. "And when it came to going to schools, we all wanted to go to the best schools we could."

Michelle graduated in 1981 from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago's West Loop as class salutatorian. After high school, she followed her brother to Princeton University, graduating cum laude in 1985 with a B.A. in Sociology. She went on to earn a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1988, where she took part in demonstrations demanding more minority students and professors.

Following law school, Michelle worked as an associate in the Chicago branch of the law firm Sidley Austin in the area of marketing and intellectual property. There in 1989, she met her future husband, Barack Obama, a summer intern to whom she was assigned as an adviser. "I went to Harvard and he went to Harvard, and the firm thought, 'Oh, we'll hook these two people up,'" Michelle said. "So, you know, there was a little intrigue, but I must say after about a month, Barack...asked me out, and I thought no way. This is completely tacky." Initially, she refused to date Obama, believing that their work relationship would make the romance improper. Eventually she relented, and the couple soon fell in love.

After two years of dating, Barack proposed. "We were at a restaurant having dinner to celebrate the fact that he had finished the bar," Michelle remembers. "Then the waiter came over with the dessert and a tray. And there was the ring. And I was completely shocked." The couple married at Trinity United Church of Christ on October 18, 1992.

Michelle soon left her job to launch a career in public service, serving as an assistant to Mayor Daley and then as the assistant commissioner of planning and development for the City of Chicago.

In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit leadership-training program that helped young adults develop skills for future careers in the public sector.

Michelle joined the University of Chicago in 1996 as associate dean of student services, developing the University's first community service program. She then worked for the University of Chicago Hospitals beginning in 2002, as executive director of community relations and external affairs.

In May 2005, she was appointed vice president of community relations and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she continues to work part-time. She also manages the business diversity program and sits on six boards, including the prestigious Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Michelle Obama first caught the eye of a national audience at her husband's side when he delivered a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois that November.

In 2007, she scaled back her own professional work to attend to family and campaign obligations during Barack's run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Michelle says she's made a "commitment to be away overnight only once a week – to campaign only two days a week and be home by the end of the second day" for their two daughters, Malia (born 1999) and Natasha (2001). It has been reported that the Obama family has no nanny, and that the children are left with their grandmother, Marian, while their parents campaign. "I've never participated at this level in any of his campaigns," Michelle says. "I have usually chosen to just appear when necessary."

Since her husband's political role pushed the Obama family into the spotlight, Michelle has been publicly recognized for her steely, no-nonsense campaign style as well as her sense of fashion. In May of 2006, Michelle was featured in Essence magazine as one of "25 of the World's Most Inspiring Women." Then in September 2007, Michelle was listed in 02138 magazine as number 58 in "The Harvard 100," a list of the most influential alumni for the year. She has also made the Vanity Fair best-dressed list two years in a row, as well as People Magazine's 2008 best-dressed list.

Michelle Obama became the 44th First Lady of the United States on January 20, 2009.

© 2009 A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.

advertisement

Shop Biography

Biography DVD

Barack Obama DVD

The Bio Channel Presents Barack Obama DVD $9.99 Buy Now

You may also be interested in…

Black History

Black History

Learn more about the African-American leaders who shaped our country, from Frederick Douglass to Maya Angelou.

US Presidents

U.S. Presidents

From George Washington to George W. Bush, meet all the U.S. Presidents.