In a recent conversation with People magazine about his new memoir, A Promised Land (maybe you’ve heard of it?), former President Barack Obama shared that his daughters, Sasha and Malia, were among the millions of Americans who participated in racial justice protests this past summer.
“I could not have been prouder of them,” he said.
Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22, are both in college, and tapped their dad, a former community organizer, for some advice, Obama told the magazine—though he was quick to add that neither he nor Michelle had to prompt them.
“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,” said Obama.
“I think a couple of times they asked for sort of very specific suggestions about what would be the best way to communicate X or what would be the most useful thing that, if we were mobilizing a whole bunch of friends, to have an impact, what should we be doing?” he continued. “But they didn’t need to be encouraged.”
The girls have successfully kept a low profile through their teenage years, rarely giving interviews in spite of the widespread interest in their lives. Obama said his daughters were not “looking for limelight” in their demonstrations. Instead, they were “very much in organizer mode.”
Some might be tempted to say the girls are following in their father’s footsteps, but the 59-year-old Obama ascribed their interest in social justice to their age, noting that the girls are “reflective of their generation in the sense they want to make a difference.”
“These kids are really focused on—how can I do something that I find meaningful, that resonates with my values and my ideals? And that I think is an encouraging sign for the country,” Obama continued.
Thanks in part to the new book, Obama has been commenting on the state of our democracy, and his own assessment on his job as president, far more than any other time since he left office. But his latest interview with People showcases Obama’s role as a father—and a proud one at that. The former president divulged details about his daughters’ different personalities, calling Sasha, currently a sophomore at the University of Michigan, “completely confident about her own take on the world.”
She is “not cowed or intimidated—and never has been—by anybody’s titles, anybody’s credentials,” he said. “If she thinks something’s wrong or right, she will say so.”
As for Malia, who will graduate from Harvard University next year, Obama gushed that his eldest daughter is “just buoyant.”
“She’s somebody who enjoys people, enjoys life and enjoys conversation,” he said. “She’s never bored, which is a badass quality that can take you places.”