One of Barack Obama‘s biggest successes as president has nothing to do with governing. On Monday’s episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the 44th president revealed how his mid-life success impacted how he and his wife, Michelle Obama, kept their daughters, Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19, grounded.
“My political success happened late… At 40, I had just lost a congressional race, maxed out on my credit cards. I’m going to the grocery store with Malia in tow,” he said. “… We had lived a normal, middle class life, with student loans, washing your own car, waiting for luggage at the airport coming back from a vacation. We then get kind of shot out of a canon, but you’re formed by that point.”
Living a middle-class life before becoming the first family in January 2009 allowed the Obamas to take “the outsized fame with a grain of salt.” The former president also credited his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, with helping to keep everyone humble.
“It also helped to have my mother-in-law around, who is the least pretentious person I know. She’s down to earth and she doesn’t understand all the fuss. She was great to have around, also, with the girls,” Obama said. “… Maybe one of my greatest successes, Michelle’s greatest successes, in those eight years was raising these great girls, who don’t have an attitude, don’t feel entitled.”
“But part of it is because my mother-in-law, if she saw them acting bratty, [she’d say,] ‘You guys haven’t done anything. Why are you acting special? You’re just here for the ride.’ And they’d suddenly go, ‘You’re right, Grandma,'” he recalled. “She was a huge blessing.”
The proud dad hasn’t been shy with praise for his daughters amid his promotional tour for his memoir, A Promised Land. In an interview with People, Obama commended his daughters for participating in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, which began in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
“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,” he said. “… I could not have been prouder of them.”
Watch the video below for more on the Obama family.
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