Barack Obama has revealed that his daughters Sasha and Malia were among the thousands of protesters who took part in anti-racism demonstrations over the summer, while sharing his pride over their involvement – which he says happened ‘without any prompting’ from either him or Michelle.
Speaking to People this week, former President Obama revealed that his daughters felt ‘the need to participate’ in the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
‘I didn’t have to give them a lot of advice because they had a very clear sense of what was right and what was wrong and [of] their own agency and the power of their voice and the need to participate,’ Obama, 59, said. ‘I could not have been prouder of them.’
Speaking up! Sasha and Malia Obama were among the activists to join anti-racism demonstrations this summer, and their dad says he’s incredibly proud of them
Getting involved: Former President Barack Obama revealed that his daughters felt ‘the need to participate’ in the protests (D.C. protesters — not including Sasha or Malia — pictured June 14)
While promoting his new memoir, A Promised Land, Obama said that Harvard senior Malia, 22, and University of Michigan sophomore Sasha, 19, got involved ‘without any prompting from Michelle and myself, on their own initiative.’
There were, however, a few times where they asked for advice for how to communicate a certain idea, or what they should be doing to have the best impact.
‘But they didn’t need to be encouraged. Their attitude was — we’ve seen something wrong and we want to fix it, and we think we can fix it.
‘And we understand that it’s not gonna take just a day or a week or one march to fix it. But we’re in it for the long haul.’
He noted that the pair weren’t ‘looking for limelight’ and were in ‘organizer mode’.
‘They’re reflective of their generation in the sense they want to make a difference and they think about their careers in terms of: How do I have a positive impact? How do I make the world better?
‘What particular paths they take in doing that, I think are going to change and vary between the two of them,’ he said, but added that he doesn’t think either of them will follow their dad’s footsteps into politics.
Obama also expressed awe at the priorities of his daughters’ generation versus older ones.
‘Even 20 years ago, I think people were much more focused on their finances and the perks of a job,’ he said. ‘And these kids are really focused on — how can I do something that I find meaningful, that resonates with my values and my ideals?’
‘They didn’t need to be encouraged,’ he said. ‘Their attitude was — we’ve seen something wrong and we want to fix it, and we think we can fix it’
Family chat: Obama talks about his daughters in a new interview with People magazine
Though he didn’t specify where, exactly, the two young women protested, the family is currently based in Washington, D.C., which is likely where they took to the streets.
As elsewhere in the country, protests kicked off in the capital after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, when officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
They have continued through this month, with supporters descending on D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Plaza last week to hang signs and artwork after members of the ‘Million MAGA March’ tore them down.
On shelves now: His new memoir, A Promised Land, came out last week
There have been several especially large demonstrations, including the Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks in August — which brought out about 250,000 people.
There have also been some clashes with police and even the military.
Perhaps most notably, on June 1, police officers and the National Guard sprayed a crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square with tear gas.
The crowd, which was there to protest police brutality, had been peaceful but were hit with the chemical agent to clear the area.
Soon after, President Trump walked to St. John’s Church, where he held up a Bible and posed for photos.
More recently, 20-year-old Karon Hylton died in a moped accident after police tried to pull him over — resulting in even more protests at the police station in October.
Obama’s eldest daughter Malia has taken part in a public protest previously; in January 2017, shortly after President Trump took office, the Harvard student joined demonstrators at a rally to protest plans to revive the Dakota Access pipeline project.
Malia was one of around 100 participants who gathered at the Sundance Film Festival to voice outrage over the President’s plans to move forward with the controversial transport system.
Proud: Obama also expressed awe at the priorities of his daughters’ generation versus older ones
A longtime activist himself, Obama has spoken out about the protests this year, touching on them during a Zoom video conference organized by My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a part of the Obama Foundation, in early June.
‘When sometimes I feel despair, I just see what’s happening with young people all across the country, and the talent and the voice and the sophistication that they’re displaying,’ he said.
‘And it makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel as if, you know, this country’s gonna get better.
‘You look at those protests, and that was a far more representative cross section of America out on the streets, peacefully protesting. That didn’t exist back in the 1960s, that kind of broad coalition,’ he went on.
‘Just remember, this country was founded on protest: It is called the American Revolution, and every step of progress in this country, every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals has been won through efforts that made the status quo uncomfortable.
‘And we should all be thankful for folks who are willing, in a peaceful, disciplined way, to be out there making a difference.’
He also praised peaceful protesters in an essay for Medium that month.
‘The waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States,’ he wrote.
‘The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.’
He also encouraged protesters to remain peaceful and also use their vote.
Praise: In a recent interview, Obama that his wife and two daughters ‘all have multiple bada** qualities’ (pictured in 2014)
‘Watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful,’ he concluded.
‘If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.’
In his interview this week, the former President also told People that his daughters have been at home ‘almost continuously’ since March, and said there’s been a lot of ‘joy’ in the extra time together.
What’s more, it has been ‘wonderful’ to see the two sisters get over any competition and squabbling they had when they were younger and ‘become such great friends.’
‘Now they’re both old enough, where they just enjoy each other’s company, and to be together as a family and see how they’ve become these marvelous young women — there’s been no greater joy than that,’ he said.
Earlier this month, Obama discussed the women in his life in the January issue of InStyle, where he described what makes them all ‘bada**.’
Malia, he said, is ‘just buoyant.’
‘She’s somebody who enjoys people, enjoys life, and enjoys conversation. She’s never bored, which is a bada** quality that can take you places,’ he said.
Younger daughter, meanwhile, Sasha is ‘completely confident about her own take on the world and is not cowed or intimidated — and never has been — by anybody’s titles, anybody’s credentials.’
‘If she thinks something’s wrong or right, she will say so,’ he said, recalling that she ‘couldn’t be steered off’ a decision even when she was four, five, and six years old.