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Remembering Marian Robinson with a conversation with Michelle Obama


Some sad news tonight about the death of Marian Robinson, mother to Michelle Obama and grandmother to Sasha and Malia. Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She worked as a secretary. She and her husband had two children. Her daughter, Michelle would go on to become the first Black woman to serve as first lady of the United States. In 2022, Juana spoke to Michelle Obama, and the former first lady reflected on what her mother had taught her about raising children.


MICHELLE OBAMA: Something I admired about my mother is that, you know, she had a clear philosophy about parenting, which is unusual for somebody of her generation. There weren't all the "What To Expect" books and the Dr. Whodeedo (ph) books on how to parent. But there were just some - a common sense way that - approach that she brought to parenting. But she always talked about - she said, I'm not raising children. I'm raising adults.

SHAPIRO: Michelle Obama said, as a result, she always had an open and honest conversation with her parents.


OBAMA: They encouraged us to talk at an early age, to find our voices. She made sure we felt heard. She made sure that she took our concerns and issues seriously. We were never treated as, kids should be seen and not heard. You still have to be ready for your kids to evolve. You know, who they are at 4 and 7 and what they need from you is very different from what they need from you as teenagers and then again as young women. But if you've laid a foundation of trust and honesty, every stage, I've found, is wonderful. It's full.

SHAPIRO: Former President Obama and his wife, Michelle, said in a statement along with other members of the family that Marian Robinson, quote, "had a way of summing up the truths about life in a word or two, maybe a quick phrase that made everyone around her stop and think." They went on, her wisdom came off as almost innate, as something she was born with, but in reality, it was hard-earned, fashioned by her deep understanding that the world's roughest edges could always be sanded down with a little grace. That wisdom included lines like, don't sweat the small stuff and know what's truly precious. Marian Lois Shields Robinson was 86 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Katia Riddle
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