FLOTUS Rejects Requests to Visit Alma Mater Princeton

The Daily Princetonian reported Wednesday that Michelle Obama, Princeton Class of 1985, "has rebuffed" numerous requests from Princeton's administration to visit her alma mater since she became first lady in January of 2009:

Over the past seven years, as her husband rose to national prominence, University officials made at least six direct overtures to Obama to return to Princeton or speak at Princeton-affiliated events. In all but one case, Obama has rebuffed the University’s advances, often citing a busy schedule...

The series of overtures, mostly conducted out of the public eye, sheds new light on the complicated — and perhaps changing — relationship between Obama and the University she has generally stayed away from since she graduated.

Speculation about Obama’s satisfaction with her undergraduate experience began when her senior thesis came under public scrutiny during her husband’s first presidential campaign in 2008.

Her sociology thesis, titled, “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community,” surveyed 89 black alumni and hypothesized that attending the University caused them to identify less with the black community.

“I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong,” she wrote in the introduction to her thesis. “Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with Whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second.” 

After graduating from Princeton, Ms. Obama was accepted to Harvard Law School, where she graduated in 1988 with a J.D. degree. At Harvard, she participated in a student protest and was reported to be among several who occupied the Dean's office in May 1988.

A native of Chicago, Ms. Obama returned to her hometown where she worked for a law firm. It was there that she met President Obama, whom she married in 1992. After her husband was elected President in 2008, Princeton sought unsuccessfully to re-establish ties with the First Lady, as the Daily Princetonian reports:

In the years since the election, Princetonians have continued to ruminate on the first lady’s attitude toward her alma mater, but there have been few public signs of a rekindled relationship. According to an Aug. 29 Politico report, before the September fundraiser Obama had only returned to the area once or twice since graduating...

In September, Obama made a rare visit to the town of her college days to speak at a fundraiser for her husband’s reelection campaign. The fundraiser, which took place at the home of Princeton University Investment Company President Andrew Golden, was attended by campaign donors as well as University alumni, students, faculty and staff...

Though she speaks nostalgically about her time in “college” in speeches, she rarely identifies her alma mater by name. Obama’s upbeat remarks about returning to Princeton offered a rare public statement of her attitude toward the University.


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