If anyone asked Professor Charles Ogletree Jr. 20 years ago which member of the Obama family would wind up in national politics, he would have picked Michelle.
Ogletree first met Michelle Obama ’88 in the fall of 1985 when both arrived at Harvard Law School for the first time, she as a student and he as a visiting professor. As a student in his trial advocacy workshop, Ogletree says her commitment to public service was already clear.
“She made a commitment to her father, who did not go to college, that she would pursue her talents to help her community,” says Ogletree.
She dedicated much of her time in law school to working at the Legal Aid Bureau, where she represented clients (in civil cases) who couldn’t afford lawyers.“She was a very diligent and tenacious student lawyer who always put her clients first,” recalls Ogletree.
Verna Williams ’88 first got to know Michelle as students in the same 1L section. They wound up partners in the first-year moot court competition and struck up a lasting friendship.
Williams remembers the telephone call when Michelle mentioned the new guy named Barack she met at her Chicago law firm, Sidley Austin.
After a few years of work in corporate law, Michelle returned to public service, working first for City Hall as assistant commissioner of planning and development. She then became the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares young people for public service.
At the University of Chicago, Michelle became the associate dean of student services and developed the University’s Community Service Center. In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals as executive director for community affairs.
Since the launch of her husband’s presidential campaign in 2007, Michelle has been by his side.
“He’s run a brilliant campaign and she’s been just amazing,” says Williams. “When you think about how difficult it must be to be married to this guy running for president and raising two young kids at the same time. But if anyone could do it, Michelle can."