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Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama, dies at 86

Marian Shields Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, who moved her first family into the White House when her son-in-law Barack Obama was elected president, has died. She was 86 years old.

Robinson’s death was announced by Michelle Obama and other family members in a statement that said: “There was and will be only one Marian Robinson. In our sadness, we rejoice in the extraordinary gift of her life.”

She had been a widow and lifelong Chicago resident when she moved into the executive mansion in 2009 to help care for her granddaughters Malia and Sasha. When she was in her early 70s, Robinson initially resisted the idea of ​​starting over in Washington, and Michelle Obama had to recruit her brother, Craig Robinson, to help persuade her mother to move.

“There were many good and valid reasons that Michelle raised with me, one of which was the opportunity to continue spending time with my granddaughters, Malia and Sasha, and help give them a sense of normalcy that is a priority for both of their parents, as it has been since Barack began his political career,” wrote Marian Robinson in the foreword to A character gamea memoir by his son, former head men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University.

“My feeling, however, was that I could visit them periodically without having to move and still be there for the girls,” she said.

Robinson wrote that her son understood why she wanted to stay in Chicago, but still used a line of reasoning with her that she often used with him and his sister. She asked him to see the move as an opportunity to grow and try something new. As a compromise, she agreed to move, at least temporarily.

FILE - Marian Robinson, mother of First Lady Michelle Obama, center left, smiles as she boards Air Force One with President Barack Obama from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, March 7, 2015.

FILE – Marian Robinson, mother of First Lady Michelle Obama, center left, smiles as she boards Air Force One with President Barack Obama from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, March 7, 2015.

Her granddaughters Malia and Sasha were just 10 and 7 years old, respectively, when the White House became their home in 2009. In Chicago, Robinson had become almost a surrogate mother to the girls during the 2008 presidential campaign. She retired from her job as a bank secretary to help transport them.

At the White House, Robinson provided a calming presence for the girls as their parents adjusted to their new roles, and his lack of Secret Service protection allowed him to escort them to and from school each day without fanfare.

“I would not be who I am today without the steady hand and unconditional love of my mother, Marian Shields Robinson,” Michelle Obama wrote in her 2018 memoir. Becoming. “She has always been my rock, allowing me the freedom to be who I am, without allowing my feet to stray too far from the ground. Her boundless love for my daughters and her willingness to put our needs before hers, gave me the comfort and confidence to venture out into the world knowing they were safe and loved at home.

Robinson gave some interviews to the media, but never to the White House press. Her aides protected her privacy, and as a result, she enjoyed a level of anonymity openly envied by the president and first lady. She allowed him to come and go to the White House as many times as she wanted to shop around town, go to the presidential box at the Kennedy Center and travel to Las Vegas or visit her other grandchildren in Portland, Oregon.

He attended some White House events, including concerts, the annual Easter egg drop and lighting of the National Christmas Tree, and some state dinners.

The White House residency also opened the world to Robinson, who had been a widow for nearly 20 years when she moved into a room on the third floor of the White House, one floor above the first family. She had never traveled outside the United States until she moved to Washington.

His first flight out of the country was aboard Air Force One in 2009, when the Obamas visited France. He joined the Obamas on a trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana later that year, during which he met Pope Benedict, toured Rome’s ancient Colosseum and saw a former slave compound on the African coast. She also accompanied her daughter and granddaughters on two trips abroad without the president: to South Africa and Botswana in 2011, and to China in 2014.

Craig Robinson wrote in his memoirs that he and his parents doubted his sister’s relationship with Barack Obama would last, although Fraser Robinson III and his wife thought the young lawyer was a worthy suitor for their daughter, also a lawyer. Without explaining, Craig Robinson said his mother gave the relationship six months.

Barack and Michelle Obama married on October 3, 1992.

Marian Lois Shields Robinson, one of seven children, was born in Chicago on July 30, 1937. She attended two years of college, married in 1960, and, as a homemaker, stressed the importance of education for her children. Both were educated at Ivy League schools, each with a bachelor’s degree from Princeton. Michelle Obama also has a law degree from Harvard.

Fraser Robinson was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department who suffered from multiple sclerosis. He died in 1991.

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