At a Glance
- Career History: Vice president for community and external affairs, University of Chicago Hospitals (2005 to 2008); Executive director for community affairs, University of Chicago Hospitals, (2002 to 2005); Associate dean of Student Services, University of Chicago, (... to 2002)
- Birthday: January 17,1964
- Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
- Alma Mater: Princeton University, B.A., 1985; Harvard Law School, J.D., 1988
- Spouse: Barack Obama
- Religion: Christian
- Office: Office of the First Lady, The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
- Web site
Path to Power
In the Obama family narrative, it is Michelle's life that is often held up as the truly American success story. It was a path that took her from her working-class roots to an Ivy League education to the White House. She is only the third first lady to hold a graduate degree (Laura Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton preceded her).
Born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson on the South Side of Chicago to working-class parents - her father, Fraser Robinson worked for the city's water treatment centers and her mother, Marion, stayed home with Michelle and her brother Craig - the future first lady grew up in modest circumstances.
Obama is the first presidential wife who is African-American, the third with a graduate degree and the first to have a child born in the 21st century. As she assumed her new role, she was deluged with expectations. Many White House-watchers hoped she would revolutionize what it meant to be a first lady in one way or another.
Obama entered the policy realm with enthusiasm, but kept to the areas traditionally associated with presidential wives, specifically children and families. Though disappointing to some, Obama gained swaths of fans. Her approval ratings hit a high of 72 percent in March 2009, and remained quite a bit higher than her husband's.
A native Chicagoan, Obama introduced her husband to many of the Chicago political insiders who formed a tight-knit group around the couple and fueled Barack's rise in Illinois politics.
Nearly two decades ago, Obama first encountered now-senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett when Jarrett hired her to work in Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's (D) office after Michelle's stint in corporate law. Jarrett soon became a close friend and mentor to both Obamas. It was working for Daley that Michelle met her current chief of staff, Susan Sher.