The Chicago Journal

Michelle Obama: Leaving a Legacy of Excellent Public Service

Source: White House Archives

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama named the most influential woman in the world in 2019, is a lawyer, writer, the wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American first lady in the history of the United States.

As the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle has led successful initiatives, navigating the hurdles with her quiet strength to get quantifiable results, thus becoming a worthy role model for everyone as she passionately advocates for healthy living among families, education, significantly higher education for adolescent girls, service members and their families to name a few.

Hailing from Chicago Southside with her parents, Marian, a homemaker and Fraiser Robinson, a city water plant employee, and her 21-month-old brother Craig, Michelle, born 17 January 1964, grew up in what she described as a conventional home with her mother at home and her father working hard to provide for the family despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.

 As a child, Michelle was determined to be exceptional and stay out of trouble, thus setting her goal to fit her mission. When she was in sixth grade, she was accepted into a gifted class program at Bryn Mawr Elementary School. For high school, she traveled three hours each day to attend Whitney Young High School, where she was on an honor roll for four years and graduated as salutatorian of her class in 1981.

She followed in her brother’s footsteps and enrolled at Princeton University, majoring in sociology and minored in African-American studies. In 1985, the budding young woman graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts before proceeding to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1988.

Returning to her hometown, Chicago, after law school, Michelle Obama joined the workforce taking her first job as the junior associate at Sidley & Austin (now called Sidley Austin LLP) as a specialist in intellectual property laws. During this time, she first met Barack Obama, who was hired as a summer associate in 1989.

Seeking a career path that would involve public service, Michelle resigned from her job at Sidley Austin LLP and took a position as assistant to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Her love for service was undisputed as she rose through the ranks as assistant commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. In 1993, she went on and founded the Chicago branch of Public Allies, a leadership-training program for young adults, where she served as the branch’s executive director until 1996.

Having tied the knots back in 1991, Michelle and Barack Obama remained dedicated to themselves and giving as much as they can back to the community through public service. In 1996, Barack was elected as a public officer to the Illinois Senate. Michelle was appointed as the associate dean of student services at the University of Chicago and helped organize the school’s community outreach programs. Taking giants strides in actualizing their individual and joint goals, the Obamas cherished their family time with their two young daughters.

In 2008 when Barack first announced his candidacy for the presidential nomination, Michelle threw her weight behind the campaign, her excellent public speaking skills, honestly, and down-to-earth attitude endearing her to the people. She handled each word of hate of criticism uttered so brilliantly that critics praised her. 

In November 2008, Barack Obama won the presidential race as the 44th president of the United States, making Michelle Obama the first African-American First Lady. As First Lady, Michelle proved that minor changes make a huge difference as she sought to encourage healthy eating and curb childhood obesity by starting a “Let’s Move!” Initiative in 2010, a project that was soon widespread across the nation and brought into sharp focus the dangers of childhood obesity.

In 2011, Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden launched “Joining Forces,” calling for all Americans to support service members, veterans, and their families. She also launched “Reach Higher” and “Let Girls Learn.” Now taking a step back from an active role in politics, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama continues to be an inspiration to many. 

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