Michelle Obama's Independent Streak, and Her Romance With Barack

Her tightknit family had its own way of evaluating Barack Obama.

ByABC News
October 2, 2008, 11:30 AM

Oct. 3, 2008— -- Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Michelle Obama learned the value of a strong work ethic from her father, Fraser Robinson.

He had multiple sclerosis but managed to go to work every day at the city's water-filtration department where he worked as a pump operator. Her mother, Marion, stayed home to raise Michelle and her big brother, Craig.

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Today, Craig Robinson suggests that their family dynamic was comparable to the Cleavers in the 1950s sitcom "Leave It to Beaver." He said their parents taught them to have high standards, and to have respect for themselves and others.

"We always said that peer pressure didn't mean anything if you had Fraser and Marion Robinson pressure," he said. "And a black version of the Cleavers, no less."

The Robinsons lived in a townhouse, in a small one-bedroom apartment on the top floor.

"You really didn't know how poor you were," Robinson said.

Brother and sister slept in the living room with a makeshift wall dividing them. The two were close and even looked alike, often mistaken for twins. Her brother made sure to look out for his younger sister, especially when it came to the men she dated.

By the late 1980s, Michelle Robinson was holding out for a guy as good as her dad.

"My sister never had too many long-term boyfriends," Robinson said.

Michelle met Barack Obama when she was a 25-year-old lawyer at a corporate law firm, fresh out of Harvard Law School. Barack, then 28 years old, was a summer associate finishing law school. She was assigned to be his adviser.

"Because I went to Harvard and he went to Harvard, and the firm thought, 'Oh, we'll hook these two people up,'" Michelle Obama said. "So, you know, there was a little intrigue, but I must say after about a month, Barack, about a month in, asked me out, and I thought no way. This is completely tacky."

He persisted, and she finally relented, agreeing to a first date at a museum, followed by a movie and ice cream. She eventually brought him home to meet her family. They liked him, but her brother wasn't hopeful.