Learning to be Michelle Obama





At Princeton, she came to terms with being a black achiever in a white world.

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As Catherine Donnelly climbed the stairs to her dorm room at Princeton University over a quarter-century ago, the Louisiana freshman felt ready for whatever lay ahead. But then she met Michelle.

Her full name was Michelle LaVaughn Robinson. She was so tall that her head seemed to brush the sloping ceiling of the cramped fourth-floor room. She was Donnelly's new roommate. And she was black.

Well, this was new.

Growing up in the South, Donnelly had gone to school with a handful of black classmates, but living together was quite another thing. Donnelly quickly warmed to Robinson, with her big sense of humor and riveting stories. But she was worried that her mother, who Donnelly said had grown up in a racist family, would not react well. She was right.

When Donnelly's mother, now 71, learned the race of her daughter's roommate , she was beside herself. She called alumni friends to object. And the next morning she marched into the student housing office.

"I said I need to get my daughter's room changed right away," recalled Alice Brown, a retired schoolteacher, who has since come to regret her reaction. "I called my own mother and she said, 'Take Catherine out of school immediately. Bring her home.' I was very upset about the whole thing."

For 17-year-old Robinson - who is now Michelle Obama and the first African-American woman to face the real prospect of becoming first lady - the incident was a stunning beginning to a formative chapter in her life. It was a time when her views on race and American culture began to coalesce - views that have helped make her a compelling figure but also somewhat of a lightning rod during the campaign. Just last week the Barack Obama campaign took on an apparently baseless rumor that she had once been taped talking of white Americans as "whitey."


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Randll Reese Besch - 6/18/2008

Since she speaks for her husband she can't claim to be seperate from his run for the presidency. That allows her to be a legitimate target even if lies are the chief means of attacking her.

Lies are used by the bottom feeder types that are part of the smear machines that are allowed in this country to operate with impunity. Disgraceful.