Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama née Robinson are arguably among the most influential power couples in the country. Though Barack was president — and arguably the most powerful man alive — for nearly a decade, he and his wife are still an ordinary couple who, like most, have a complex and dynamic history.
After meeting in 1989, the two married three years later and have had two daughters together ever since. How did the former President and First Lady first meet? And how has an otherwise normal couple gone from becoming one of America’s strongest supercouples in the 30 years since? Well, fans of the legislator may be surprised at how his relationship with Michelle started, as it took the leading lady a while to realize that they were meant to be more than just professional associates. In fact, Michelle was hardly impressed when she first met the future president, let alone her husband-to-be. Without Barack’s efforts, the story might have unfolded very differently.
Michelle wasn’t interested in being set up with Barack
Michelle Obama, née Robinson, and Barack Obama, both former attorneys, first met shortly after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1989. According to ABC News, she had started her career at a corporate law firm (Sidley Austin) when he was a summer employee there. “The company was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to put these two people together,'” Michelle recalled in 2008, per ABC. She said that although there was “a little intrigue,” when her husband-to-be first asked her, her immediate response was, “No way. That’s totally cheesy.”
Michelle also felt that racial bias might have come into play upon hearing descriptions of Barack. “Rumor has it he was extraordinary,” she wrote in her 2018 memoir, Becoming, per Goodreads. “[But] I was skeptical about the whole thing. In my experience, any semi-intelligent black person is dressed in a suit, and white people tend to go nuts. I doubted he deserved the hype.”
Michelle wasn’t the only one. After finally agreeing to go on a date with him, the two ended up dating, and she finally decided to bring him home and introduce her new boyfriend to her family. Michelle said that her brother – and only sibling – Craig in particular was quite pessimistic about the pair. “We all thought, ‘It’s a shame, the guy will be out in a minute,'” Michelle recalled. Of course it didn’t quite turn out that way.
How Barack Obama got Michelle to marry him
For his part, Barack Obama recalled being immediately impressed by his future wife, then-Michelle Robinson, when he first met her. “I asked her out,” he wrote for Oprah.com in 2007. “She refused. I kept asking. She kept refusing.” “I’m your advisor,” he recalled her telling him. “It’s not appropriate.” It wasn’t until he offered to quit in exchange for dating her that she finally relented.
After their first date, Michelle said she was finally sold. “My assumption was that this guy has to be weird,” she recalled of her expectations before meeting him in 2009’s The Indian Express. “At first I thought, ‘What kind of name is Barack Obama?’ And I found out that he grew up in Hawaii, which I thought was odd … that’s where you vacationed, not where you came from.” However, by the end of the first date, she said, “It was over. I was sold.”
Of course, Barack proposed to Michelle in 1991, and they would wed in 1992. And of course the rest is history. “For the gentlemen out there who aren’t married yet,” the president advised his single supporters in 2012, “enhance your gene pool by marrying someone superior to you.” No doubt Barack believed he did, and the trust they have in each other will surely prove itself for another 30 strong years of marriage.