Barack Obama is proud of his kids. The former president praised his and Michelle Obama’s daughters — Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22 — for feeling “the need to participate” in Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer.
The worldwide protests began in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
“I didn’t have to give them a lot of advice because they had a very clear sense of what was right and what was wrong and [of] their own agency and the power of their voice and the need to participate,” he tells People. “Malia and Sasha found their own ways to get involved with the demonstrations and activism that you saw with young people this summer, without any prompting from Michelle and myself, on their own initiative.”
The former president adds that the girls didn’t participate in the demonstrations “in a way where they were looking for limelight” and were instead “very much in organizer mode,” something he predicts they’ll continue in the future.
“I could not have been prouder of them… I think both girls are going to be active citizens,” he says. “They’re reflective of their generation in the sense they want to make a difference and they think about their careers in terms of: How do I have a positive impact? How do I make the world better?”
“What particular paths they take in doing that, I think are going to change and vary between the two of them,” Obama continues. “I think they’re going to want to have an impact and their friends feel the same way.”
His daughters, Obama believes, are great examples of how eager young people are to get involved and have their voices heard.
“It’s interesting when you talk to them in groups, the degree to which, compared to young people when I was coming out of college or you know even 20 years ago, I think people were much more focused on their finances and the perks of a job. And these kids are really focused on — how can I do something that I find meaningful, that resonates with my values and my ideals?” he says. “And that I think is an encouraging sign for the country.”
“Truthfully, what got me excited was to see a new generation take up the torch and recognize that this is their country to remake,” Obama continues. “To see so many young people from different walks of life come together so rapidly, overwhelmingly peacefully and with a lot of thought and care and sophistication, it was the biggest bright spot of this year, on the wake of one of the darkest moments of this year.”
While it didn’t take prompting from their parents to get involved, Malia and Sasha have asked for advice from time to time.
“I think a couple of times they asked for sort of very specific suggestions about what would be the best way to communicate X or what would be the most useful thing that, if we were mobilizing a whole bunch of friends, to have an impact, what should we be doing?” he says. “But they didn’t need to be encouraged. Their attitude was — we’ve seen something wrong and we want to fix it, and we think we can fix it. And we understand that it’s not gonna take just a day or a week or one march to fix it. But we’re in it for the long haul.”
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