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Obama says daughters joined summer demonstrations: 'I could not have been prouder'

"They didn't do it in a way where they were looking for limelight," the former president said of Sasha and Malia Obama.
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Former President Barack Obama says daughters, Malia Obama, left, and Sasha Obama, shown here in 2013, participated in the demonstrations that occurred following the death of George Floyd this summer. Win McNamee / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

When thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across America to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death this summer, a pair of presidential daughters was among them.

Malia Obama, 22, and her sister, Sasha, 19, who are both college students, quietly participated in demonstrations in an unspecified place this summer, former President Barack Obama told People.

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"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 their own agency and the power of their voice and the need to participate," he said. "Malia and Sasha found their own ways to get involved with the demonstrations and activism that you saw with young people this summer, without any prompting from Michelle and myself, on their own initiative."

Obama did not share where or when they were involved in the demonstration but said that his daughters kept a low profile while using their democratic right to protest. "They were very much in organizer mode," he said. "I could not have been prouder of them."

Malia and Sasha Obama themselves have not spoken about it publicly, as they rarely give interviews.

The former president, 59, was a lawyer and community organizer in Chicago before his political career. His daughters asked him for some advice on how to mobilize following the death of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on his neck for at least eight minutes and 15 seconds as Floyd said he couldn't breathe.

"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?" Obama said. "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."

While it remains to be seen whether either daughter will pursue a political career, Obama believes they will find a way to have an impact on the world.

"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?'" he said. "What particular paths they take in doing that, I think are going to change and vary between the two of them."

The 44th president has dedicated his new bestselling memoir, “A Promised Land,” to Malia, Sasha and wife Michelle Obama. He opened up about his daughters in an interview with InStyle this month.

"Sasha is, as Malia describes it, 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," he said. "If she thinks something’s wrong or right, she will say so."

"And Malia, she is just buoyant. She’s somebody who enjoys people, enjoys life and enjoys conversation. She’s never bored, which is a badass quality that can take you places," he said.

Obama believes their participation in the demonstrations is emblematic of a generation actively engaged in democracy.

"To see so many young people from different walks of life come together so rapidly, overwhelmingly peacefully and with a lot of thought and care and sophistication, it was the biggest bright spot of this year on the wake of one of the darkest moments of this year," he told People.