Barack and Michelle Obama talk to People Magazine about their family

Presumptive Democratic US Presidential nominee Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have a new interview with People Magazine in which they speak candidly about their family life. They primarily talk about how they work together to create a normal life for their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. The Obamas received some slack earlier in the month for allowing their children to talk on camera to Access Hollywood. It was a casual and low-key interview that seemed harmless to many people. We’ll have to see what kind of fallout they get from the TV pundits for being so open with a celebrity glossy. They come across as a normal and close knit family who try to teach their daughters the value of hard work. They don’t reveal anything incredibly personal, and if anything show that they don’t mind talking about their family and what works for them:

They don’t give their daughters birthday presents and do parties instead

PEOPLE: Someone told me today that you don’t do birthday presents.
Michelle: No, because we spend hundreds of dollars on a birthday party and movie tickets and pizza and popcorn …
Barack: That sleepover is enough. We want to teach some limits to them. And their friends bring over presents.
Michelle: They get so much stuff that it just becomes numbing. Malia believes there is still a Santa Claus even though she’s a little wary because some of her friends are non-believers. But Malia says, “Ma, I know there is a Santa because there’s no way you’d buy me all that stuff.” [Laughing]


10 year-old Malia gets a dollar a week allowance for chores

Do you give your girls an allowance?
Michelle: Sorta, kinda. [Laughs]
Barack: I’m out of town all the time, so Malia will say, “Hey, you owe me 10 weeks!” … Originally, we were giving her a dollar a week as long as she did all her chores. It turns out that she’s been doing her chores even without prompting from the allowance, which makes me feel guilty that she’s been carrying on her end of the bargain and I haven’t been as consistent.

Daughters are worried if their dad becomes President because they’ll have to leave their friends

Last year, when we first met, Malia said that she sometimes wished maybe you wouldn’t win. Do you think they still have those mixed feelings?
Barack: I am absolutely certain because we’ve talked about it – that they are not looking forward to moving. They have a wonderful life in Chicago, they have lifelong friends in Chicago and the prospects of having to make new friends, that’s never something that kids are looking forward to. So I’m sure that there’s a part of them that says we won’t be heartbroken if things don’t work out.

And if they said tomorrow, “I don’t want you to be President, I want you to be Daddy”?
Barack: Well, so far those issues haven’t been mutually exclusive. We talked about this before we started and Michelle and I monitor their attitudes pretty closely.
Michelle: They’ve been stable. Their lives just haven’t changed that much.
Barack: And our job, more than anything, is to make sure that in addition to monitoring whether or not they’re feeling sad or neglected at all, that they’re also not feeling special because their dad is running for President.
Michelle: That’s right.
Barack: One of the things I’ve been really happy about is how nonplussed they’ve been by the whole thing. They don’t bring it up, they don’t talk to their friends about it. If anything, they’re actually more courteous and more careful with other people now than they were before I ran….

How are you preparing them for possible life in the White House?
Michelle: Slowly. We talk to them about it as they are curious. … They ask about schools and making friends. … Their anxiety has nothing to do with the White House; it has everything to do with what kids think about: “If I have to go to a new school, will I make friends and what about my old friendships?”

On teaching their daughters to be humble and to empathize with other people

Did you talk about that, their behavior in a fishbowl?
Barack: It was more just like making sure the same standards we set before we were in the public eye were maintained.
Michelle: Be considerate of how other people might feel, you know, empathize. Put yourself in the place of other people.
Barack: And just never think that you’re better than anybody else. Or worse than anybody else.
Michelle: That’s also one of the reasons why we don’t campaign with them a lot. Because no matter what you do at a campaign setting, they are special, right? It’s Fourth of July and everybody is singing “Happy Birthday” to Malia. … And everybody loves the kids so they get special treatment. That’s nice for a day or two, but they need to go back home, just so they realize that this isn’t life.
Barack: Which is good when they’re doing activities like soccer. Malia loves soccer, but she’s still so tall and gangly compared to some of these little kids who are zipping around her, although she’s getting better. The fact that she’s not good at everything right away – and Sasha’s not good at everything right away – means learning lessons about having to work hard at something and improve.

On the difficulties of balancing everything for their family and in their marriage

Can you tell me how this experience has changed your marriage?
Barack: It’s made it stronger. The tough times for us were when the kids were real small, I was away a lot and Michelle was still working. So, the burden on her was enormous, and I think there’s a feeling that maybe I didn’t fully appreciate that burden. That was something we worked through. And I think we’re both more patient with each other. We both know how to avoid making the other person feel aggravated. And I’m so proud of her and I think she knows how much I love and appreciate her. So, she puts up with me.
Michelle: I think it has made us stronger. Time and love and sacrifice and hard struggles, I think, make you stronger.
Barack: I also think that she knew at the beginning when I was doing this that if she came to me and said don’t do it, I wouldn’t have done it.
Michelle: That’s the key, for sure.
Barack: And if I ever thought that it was ruining my family, I wouldn’t do it.
Michelle: We’re constantly balancing each other. I know that if I were to say, “I can’t take this,” it would be over.

Barack and Michelle come across as very open and honest about their family and the things they go through to make it work day to day, and you can tell that they instill good values in their daughters. Whatever your political beliefs, you can see that they have a strong family and really care about their daughters and giving them a stable life. I also like the last part about how Barack is honest that he didn’t help as much as he could have when the girls were little. He said they worked through that rough stage, though, and have reached a better understanding of each other and what they need to do for Sasha and Malia.

You can read more of the interview and see exclusive photos on and in their upcoming issue.

Picture note by JayBird: Here’s Senator Barack Obama speaking at the ‘Women for Obama’ breakfast at the Hilton Hotel in New York on July 10th. Images thanks to WENN.

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41 Responses to “Barack and Michelle Obama talk to People Magazine about their family”

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  1. Anni says:

    he´s in berlin right now giving a speech at the siegessäule. i am watching it on tv. he´s seems to be a nice guy. hm. i like him.

  2. Trillion says:

    I just read that the U.S. state dept. has barred it’s employees from attending his speech in Berlin.

  3. Bodhi says:

    I love this family! Politics asides, they are both really great parents

  4. daisy424 says:

    @Trillion, look to the source of that reporting; Daily Kos, Huffington Post, etc. Far left bias reporting.

  5. Kaiser says:

    Love him. Love the soon-to-be first family.

    CB, did you go to his speech?

  6. Mr. T says:

    The emporer’s new clothes. You either see him for what he is or as he paints himself as the new messiah. People are clueless.

  7. Karen says:

    Is he branding himself as a new Brangelina instead of focusing on plans and substance?

    When someone wants us to focus on his private life, I wonder how “professional” is it.

    If it’s some lousy actors who have less to offer in the acting department and they opt to garner publicity by PR stunts it’s one thing.

    But a presidential candidate?

    What’s next? Attending a premiere?
    Adopting an Asain child?
    Photo op at Starbucks?

  8. geronimo says:

    Even allowing for the fact that they have to be careful with what they say, they come across really well here. Very sweet with the kids saying ‘never mind the Whitehouse, what about our school and friends?’

    Edit. Where exactly is he painting himself as the new Messiah?? Must have missed that bit. Not his fault if others have decided to invest a lot of possibly unrealistic expectations in him?

  9. Kaiser says:

    @Karen – McCain has an adopted Asian daughter. And he just did a photo op at a grocery store, but alas, not at a Starbucks. And McCain’s written books – and taken the profits for himself – about his life, including *gasp* lots of personal info.

    Michelle & Cindy McCain have both done photo shoots with Vogue & interviews with womens’ mags. And The Bushes, McCains, Clintons and Obamas have all given interviews to People Magazine. It’s called appealing to low-information voters.

  10. Bob says:

    Trust me. The kids don’t have to worry about leaving their friends. They’ll be staying in Chicago.

  11. Trillion says:

    Daisy: read it in the Washington Post, hardly the far left.

  12. Syko says:

    I don’t see anyway that being far left is any worse than being far right. Look where the right has us – poised on the brink of a depression.

    When did “liberal” become a bad word anyway?

  13. daisy424 says:

    Yeah Trillion, with Bill Arkin?

    @Syko, I am neither.

  14. ziggybutterfly says:

    His lead economic advisor was on Fresh Air this morning and he was SO IRRITATING.

    I get the Messiah complex from Obama as well.

  15. Syko says:

    I knew you weren’t a baddie, Daisy. 🙂

  16. jessiee says:

    and i get the doddering old grandfather vibe from McCain.

  17. daisy424 says:

    The first election I was old enough to vote in was ’80.
    I vote for the person, not their Party affiliation.

  18. Syko says:

    Me too, Daisy. I’ve been voting since 1964. The sad thing is, I have never voted for anyone that excited me. Not in my entire life. It’s always been for the one I hated the least. Looks like this is another one of those elections.

  19. Bodhi says:

    Ditto Syko… But the 1st time I voted was in 2000 😉

  20. Trillion says:

    I’m searching to see if the story is B.S. about the State Dept. being banned. Sorry Daisy, but it seems to be fact so far. The diplomats union is trying to appeal the ruling. (American Foreign Service Assoc.)

  21. Kaiser says:

    Sounds like Syko voted for Nixon! 🙂

    But seriously, I think some of these complaints against Obama are a bit weak. It’s like the old joke:

    A woman stands, waiting on the blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg. President Lincoln steps up to the podium and delivers the Gettysburg Address. Afterward, a journalist asks the woman what she thought of Lincoln.

    “He’s too tall,” she complained.

  22. Syko says:

    Nope, sure didn’t, Kaiser. I would have in 1960 because I liked him better than Kennedy – but I wasn’t old enough to vote. Back then you had to be 21 and I was only 18. But I learned enough about him to be glad when he resigned.

  23. Celebitchy says:

    @Kaiser, I did go to his speech. But he really left me and the crowd underwhelmed. I have heard much better speeches from him and I expected more. He is so middle of the road now and focused on security, terrorism, etc. Toward the middle it started picking up but he had all these talking points that just seemed fake and b.s. like he was trying to come across as a centrist. I’m still going to vote for him, but I don’t have the enthusiasm for him that I used to – and I don’t think he has the enthusiasm he used to have either.

  24. Karen says:

    Kaiser, well excuse me for expecting something diffeent from him.

    I thought he was about “change” and not another politician.

    If he is just like all the rest and opting to “talk about his family” instead of his plans, that he doesn’t have a lot to offer.

    I am not voting for his ability to talk about his children.
    I would have voted for Angelina if that was the case.

  25. daisy424 says:

    Trilion 😉 Thanks!

    Syko, I agree with you. No excites me either.

    CB, I am surprised that you leaked your vote on-line. I see exactly what you mean. I hear about the ‘change’ he touts, but I want firm answers about where he stands on specific issues. He has charisma, but is vague.

    I think that we all want who is ‘best’ for our country. Every American voting has different priorities and concerns. That is what will steer you toward the candidate that is right for you.

  26. Plot says:

    cb, I was underwhelmed as well (damn! Was it crowded or what?) For the number of people who showed up, I expected something huge from Obama. But when he started in on the Berlin Airlift bit, I turned to my BF with a big “Uh-oh” and knew Obama was phoning it in.

    Guess he had a long, hard day dealing with Merkel. Germans are tough for the uninitiated.

    Loved the crowd response to the environmental parts.

    Still voting for him.

  27. countrybabe says:

    Bob that’s funny. Kaiser would love Obama. He appeals mostly to the hard left.
    He seems to only spend time with his daughters on a photo op.

  28. Scott F. says:

    He has to appeal to the center if he wants to have any chance of being elected. Name a single far left candidate that’s ever won a presidential election in this country. The closest you’ll come is probably Carter, who was a dismal failure.

    Clinton won the first time by becoming a ‘new Democrat’, which translated into being for social programs but still being tough on defense and crime. We found out what a crock of shit that was when he cut the balls off the military just in time for the war on terror to begin (but hey, the Army got schnazzy new berets). He won the second time by taking credit for welfare reform (which he’d vetoed twice and only passed because Carville told him if he didn’t it would cost him reelection).

    Kerry tried the far left, anti-war, anti-tax cuts, anti-patriot act approach, and it got him buried by 3 million votes by arguably one of the least popular incumbent Presidents of all time. I don’t often credit Obama with much, but apparently he can at least learn from past mistakes.

    He would have had to go far left like that to really impress most of Europe, which is pretty far left in general compared to the US. But Europeans need to understand we really only have 2 viable parties, so you have to appeal to a MUCH larger percentage of people than your average European politician who’s party may only represent 5-10% of the population.

  29. Anastasia says:

    Karen, I need to tell you something: Angelina isn’t running for president. Sorry. LOL.

    Why do you keep injecting her into every thread you post on? In other words, why the obsession?

  30. Anastasia says:

    And more on-topic, I really like Obama. I think he’s going to make a great president, and thank God, because we sure as hell need it.

  31. Shane says:

    Being President is not the end all, be all of everything. If Obama doesn’t win, I wonder if he will move forward anyway on the issues he has campaigned for. He certainly has financial and celebrity backing, so it seems he can accomplish alot from here on out, President or not. Just a thought.

  32. lunachick says:

    I love how Obama advocates personal responsibility, and challenges all of us to get involved and make a difference.

    After 8 years of embarrassment and, frankly, horror…I mean, before Bush II I never would have imagined U.S. would stoop to the level of torturing people…we’re supposed to be the good guys!

    Seeing Obama represent a different side of America today on an international stage felt so good. It made me really proud to be an American again.

    I’ll never forgive Bush and his gang of criminals for having taken that pride from me for a time.

  33. ROBYN says:


  34. Karen says:

    Scott, why can’t he show his true colors?

    If he is a far left candidate than let’s hear what he stands for and if he is repesenting a new kind of leadership- than gossip mags and phot ops are not the way to go.

    There is a difference from what I expect from a rock star and a president.

    I do not like this new twist in what he was supposed to represent.

    I am not voting for the coolest rock star of the year.

    This is supposed to be something much more important and respectable, based on merits and ideas, plans etc.

    He was supposed to “not play” these old school games of old politics.

  35. geronimo says:

    Watched coverage of Obama’s Berlin outing last night on Newsnight (political affairs prog) and there seemed to be very mixed reactions to it. European opinion was on the whole fairly positive but American opinion seemed less so. The consensus seemed to be that it matters not one iota to Americans how well he is received in other parts of the world since it’s Americans he needs to impress, There also seemed to be a lot of raised eyebrows at what was perceived as a presidential candidate prematurely acting like an elected president. Obama’s in a hard place.

  36. Kaiser says:

    For God’s sake, Scott. For all the bitching you did on the Angelina thread… you know what you are? A Bushloonie. Just a few points:

    *Kerry wasn’t hard left. He voted for the Iraq war resolution, and engaged in little to no war oversight. He pissed off a lot anti-war voters (like me).
    *Yeah, Clinton is such a douchebag for not spending money like a drunken sailer after the Cold War. Good thing your butt-buddy Bush prioritized! Afganistan is a growing democracy! Oh wait… Bin Laden and al-Zawihiri are now in custody! Oh wait…

  37. vdantev says:

    Bush didn’t win an election Scott, it was a bloodless coup. Don’t look for him or his toadies to give up power so easily.

    They still have 4 months for another ‘unprecedented’ terrorist action to save the day.

  38. Mebe says:

    At least Obama is for birth control.


    Obama offers jobs converting to a green economy, McCain hasn’t voted for the environment in his history of the Senate. McCain is awful, awful, awful.

    Please don’t let the “liberal media” lie to you about Obama find our his position for yourself.

  39. Ms C says:

    Seems this family is becoming new celebrities to the media, i wonder why the major news channels followed him to Europe, yet never sent their main anchors anywhere to follow McCain? Bias reporting? It’s all smoke and mirrors with the Obama’s. One term as junior senator, no leadership experience, not even boy scouts, etc. Scarey to think he may end up clueless president of this country. Change can be good or bad, depends upon whom you vote for.

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