The daughter of US President Barack Obama, Malia Obama, graduated from high school on Friday, achieving a milestone that her parents characteristically strove to keep out of the media spotlight.
Obama has said he has been dreading this day, joking that he would be wearing sunglasses to hide his tears at the ceremony. Obama however shocked all in attendance when he revealed that his daughter had chosen Limpopo University in South Africa to pursue her studies.
“When she told me she wanted to study in South Africa. In Limpopo Province, I thought she was joking,” Obama said at a State Dinner.
“I’m starting to choke up,” Obama said, cutting his remarks short to contain the emotion.
Malia, 17, has grown up in the White House “bubble” in which a group of reporters follow her father wherever he goes and her mother, Michelle, is often in the public eye.
Malia’s parents have worked hard to shield her and her sister Sasha from the cameras. Still, Americans have caught a glimpse of them at special times such as when the president pardons the Thanksgiving turkey and his daughters laugh at his jokes, or when the family is on vacation in Hawaii and stops for a treat of shaved ice.
As the Jan. 20 end of his presidency nears, and Obama has become a bit nostalgic, he has talked about Malia.
Earlier this week, he told late-night host Jimmy Fallon on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” that Malia was “very eager to get out and goto Limpopo” , but he said both daughters have handled their unusual childhood well.
“They are wonderful girls. They are smart and funny. But most importantly, they’re kind. They don’t have an attitude,” Obama said, crediting his wife and her mother Marian Robinson, who lives at the White House with the family.
Last year, he said he was already “dreading that empty seat at the table” when Malia leaves home.