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Obama’s extended family at home in White House


Washington : Along with Barack Obama’s mother-in-law Marian Robinson, a group of about 50 people from Chicago, forming the president’s extended family, have visited him at the White House and more friends and in-laws plan such trips.

About 50 of Obama’s friends and in-laws arrived at the White House just after midnight Jan 20, the Inauguration Day, for what they called a “housewarming party”, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

They had celebrated more than a dozen moves together over the years, usually with casual dinners in bungalows on the South Side of Chicago. This time, they wore rented tuxedos and gowns as presidential staffers ushered them past Secret Service agents and into the East Room.

Robinson came downstairs from her new bedroom, and the family reunited as celebrities and political power brokers greeted them.

About an hour into the reception, Obama returned from his whirlwind tour of 10 inaugural balls, the report said. His wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, were exhausted and went to bed but the president called over a photographer and said he wanted one final memento from the historic day.

He gathered his in-laws — teachers, secretaries and retirees from a self-described middle-class black family in Chicago — and posed with them beneath a portrait of George Washington.

“I was just trying to soak it all in, and then this realization hit me,” Steve Shields, Michelle Obama’s 57-year-old uncle, was quoted as saying. “It was like, ‘Okay. This is different. All of the sudden, we are the family that’s, like, at the center of the universe.'”

To help him adjust to Washington, Obama has transported an entire network of unassuming friends and in-laws from the South Side into the capital.

Robinson, 71, has a room on the third floor, one level up from the Obamas, with a four-poster bed, a walk-in closet, a TV set and a small sitting area for guests. She sometimes yearns for her anonymous life in Chicago, but she is committed to making the president and first lady feel at home, the Post said.

Kaye Wilson, godmother to the Obama daughters, will visit about once a month to cook family favourites and twist Malia’s hair. More than a dozen other friends and relatives — some of whom have never so much as visited Washington — are scheduling spring sleepovers in the White House, the report added.

“The way [the Obamas] got this far was with support from all of these people in Chicago,” explained Wilson. “They always had people to depend on, friends who watched the girls and took care of things so some part of their life could stay the same. That group has to stick together. We have to find a way to make their lives comfortable in Washington.”