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Obama, Michelle Robinson (1964- )

On January 20, 2009, with the Presidential swearing in of her husband Barack Obama, Michelle Robinson Obama became the first person of African American descent to become First Lady of the United States.

Obama is an accomplished professional with an impressive resume of her own. Outspoken, intelligent, and articulate, she can give passionate speeches, displaying warmth, charisma, and her ability to build an empathetic relationship with her audience. Early in her husband’s campaign for the Presidency, her forthright style sometimes resulted in “sound bites” which when taken out of context became controversial.

Born January 17, 1964 to Frasier Robinson, a pump operator for the city of Chicago’s water plant, and Marian Robinson, who spent much of Michelle’s childhood a homemaker, Michelle grew up on Chicago, Illinois South Side, one of the nation’s poorest urban communities. Her parents strictly limited their children’s television viewing, and Michelle and her brother Craig were expected to take part in discussions around the family dinner table.

Excelling in school, Michelle attended the Ivy League’s Princeton University in New Jersey, graduating cum laude in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, and a minor in African American Studies. Her senior thesis was based on surveys of black alumni. She earned her law degree at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1988. After law school, she spent three years at the Chicago law firm of Sidney and Austin, where in 1989 she met summer intern Barack Obama, her future husband.

Leaving the corporate law world in 1991, Michelle pursued a series of positions in public service, serving as assistant to the mayor of Chicago and as assistant commissioner of planning and development for the city of Chicago. In 1993, she became founding Executive Director of Public Allies-Chicago, a leadership training program helping young adults develop skills for future careers in the public sector.

Since 1996, she has been associated with the University of Chicago, first as