How Michelle Obama’s Parents Inspired Her Success

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman, which can certainly be said for Michelle Obama, especially once you see her new Netflix documentary Becoming. But behind Michelle Obama were great parents who helped shape and inspire their daughter to become the person she is today. Michelle's mom and dad came from humble beginnings but always strived to do the best for their children. And whatever they did sure worked.
Marian Robinson and Fraser Robinson III raised Michelle in the south side of Chicago where Fraser was a city pump operator and Marian has been a secretary. They always encouraged their daughter to be inquisitive, to work hard, and to be herself. In her book Becoming, Michelle wrote about how her parents talked to her and her brother Craig like they were adults and never grew tired of them asking questions and provoking conversations on all kinds of topics. She said she once asked, "Why do we have to eat eggs for breakfast?" which resulted in a discussion about protein and the agreement that Michelle could eat peanut butter instead of eggs for breakfast next time. 
In an essay for People, Michelle praised her parents for letting her and Craig be themselves. "[Marian] and my father, Fraser, were wholly invested in their children, pouring a deep and durable foundation of goodness and honesty, of right and wrong, into my brother and me," she added. And in a commencement speech for King College Prep, she spoke about how her father made her want to achieve all that she has in life.
He died in 1991 from multiple sclerosis complications, but his perseverance in his own life inspired hers. "My dad didn't live to see me in the White House … But let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life. Every day, I work to make him proud," she said. "Every day, I stay hungry, not just for myself, but for him and for my mom and for all the kids I grew up with who never had the opportunities that my family provided for me."
And just as her father's memory stays with her in all that she does, Michelle's mother has often been by her side for all of her defining life moments. Marian was a frequent White House event guest, and Barack Obama grew close to her as well. For her birthday in 2019, he wrote a lengthy Facebook post in her honor. "Over the years, you've probably seen Michelle's mom, Marian Robinson, in photos with our family at inaugurations, Christmas tree lightings, Easter Egg Rolls, and a whole lot more," he wrote. "But what you haven't seen is the way she's been there for us every day—not just for Michelle and our daughters, but for me, too. I've always appreciated her steadiness, her perspective, and the way a wisecrack from her reverberates around the room."
We may not have seen that at the time, but we do see Marian's personality truly shine in the Becoming documentary, which gives an in-depth look at Michelle's life and inner circle.
Strong women can become that way on their own via their own determination, and a great deal of what Michelle has achieved is certainly thanks to her own hard work. But the foundation that she had was helpful as well. She had parents who believed in her, encouraged her work ethic, wanted her to make more of her life, and stood by her side as she made all that happen and more.
Related Content:

More from Movies

R29 Original Series