Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama, dies at the age of 86

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

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 grief we are lifted by the extraordinary gift of her life.”

She was a widow and a lifelong resident of Chicago when she moved into the executive mansion in 2009 to help care for granddaughters Malia and Sasha.

In her early 70s, Robinson initially resisted the idea of ​​starting over in Washington, and Michelle Obama had to enlist her brother Craig to convince their mother to move.

“There were many good and valid reasons that Michelle put forward to me, not least the opportunity to spend time with my granddaughters, Malia and Sasha, and help give them a sense of normality that will benefit both of them. is a priority. of their parents, as it has been since Barack began his political career,” Robinson wrote in the foreword to “A Game of Character,” a memoir by her son, the former head men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University.

“My feeling, though, was that I could visit occasionally without actually moving in 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 an argument about her that she often used about him and his sister. He asked her to view the move as an opportunity to grow and try something new. As a compromise, she agreed to move, at least temporarily.

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Granddaughters Malia and Sasha were just ten and seven respectively when the White House became their home in 2009. In Chicago, Robinson became almost a surrogate parent for the girls during the 2008 presidential campaign. She quit her job as a bank secretary to help them travel.

At the White House, Mrs. Robinson provided a reassuring presence for the girls as their parents settled into their new roles, and her lack of Secret Service protection made it possible for her to escort them to and from school every day without fuss.

“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, giving me the freedom to be who I am without my feet getting too far off the ground. Her boundless love for my girls and her willingness to put our needs above hers gave me the comfort and confidence to go out into the world knowing they were safe and cherished at home.

Robinson gave a few media interviews, but never to the White House press. Aides guarded her privacy, and as a result she enjoyed a level of anonymity that the president and first lady openly envied. It allowed her to come and go from the White House as often as she wanted on shopping trips around town, to the presidential box at the Kennedy Center and for trips to Las Vegas or to visit her other grandchildren in Portland, Oregon .

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She attended some White House events, including concerts, the annual Easter Egg Roll and National Christmas Tree Lighting, and some state dinners.

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

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

Craig Robinson wrote in the memoir that he and his parents doubted whether his sister’s relationship with Barack Obama would last, although Fraser Robinson III and his wife felt the young lawyer was a worthy suitor for their daughter, also a lawyer. Without explanation, 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 school for two years, married in 1960 and, as a stay-at-home mother, emphasized the importance of education for her children. Both were educated at Ivy League schools, each receiving a bachelor’s degree from Princeton. Michelle Obama also has a law degree from Harvard.

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