Michelle Obama celebrates 49th birthday

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, the wife of the 44th and incumbent President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the first African-American First Lady of the United States, celebrates her 49th birthday today.

She was born on January 17, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois, to Fraser Robinson III, a city water plant employee and Democratic precinct captain, and Marian (née Shields), a secretary at Spiegel’s catalog store.

For her 49th birthday on Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama launched a new Twitter account.

In the second tweet sent from her brand new @FLOTUS account (which stands for, naturally, First Lady of the United States), Mrs. Obama posted a photo with Inaugural citizen co-chair David Hall ahead of the MLK Day of Service Saturday — and unveiled a set of bangs.

Michelle Obama

The National Day of Service, Mrs. Obama shared in an email to TODAY.com, is her “favorite event of inauguration weekend,” when people from across the country volunteer in their communities in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The President’s official Twitter account also joined in on Thursday to wish his wife a happy birthday, posting a montage of their adorable moments together.

Michelle Obama

When people ask First Lady Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn’t hesitate to say that first and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha’s mom.

Biography/Career

Michelle was raised on the South Side of Chicago. She attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School before returning to Chicago and to work at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met her future husband.

She studied law.

Following law school, she was an associate at the Chicago office of the law firm Sidley Austin, where she first met her future husband. At the firm, she worked on marketing and intellectual property. She continues to hold her law license, but as she no longer needs it for her work, it has been on a voluntary inactive status since 1993.

In 1991, she held public sector positions in the Chicago city government as an Assistant to the Mayor, and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. She worked there nearly four years and set fundraising records for the organization that still stood 12 years after she left.

In 1996, she served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University’s Community Service Center. In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs and, beginning May 2005, as Vice President for Community and External Affairs. She continued to hold the University of Chicago Hospitals position during the primary campaign, but cut back to part-time in order to spend time with her daughters as well as work for her husband’s election; she subsequently took a leave of absence from her job. According to the couple’s 2006 income tax return, her salary was $273,618 from the University of Chicago Hospitals, while her husband had a salary of $157,082 from the United States Senate. The Obamas’ total income, however, was $991,296, which included $51,200 she earned as a member of the board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, and investments and royalties from his books.

She served as a salaried board member of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. (NYSE: THS), a major Wal-Mart supplier with whom she cut ties immediately after her husband made comments critical of Wal-Mart at an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 14, 2007. She serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Presidential election

Although Obama has campaigned on her husband’s behalf since early in his political career by handshaking and fund-raising, she did not relish the activity at first. When she campaigned during her husband’s 2000 run for United States House of Representatives, her boss at the University of Chicago asked if there was any single thing about campaigning that she enjoyed; after some thought, she replied that visiting so many living rooms had given her some new decorating ideas.

At first, Obama had reservations about her husband’s presidential campaign, due to fears about a possible negative effect on their daughters. She says that she negotiated an agreement in which her husband was to give up smoking in exchange for her support of his decision to run. About her role in her husband’s presidential campaign she has said: “My job is not a senior adviser.” During the campaign, she has discussed race and education by using motherhood as a framework.

Michelle and Barack Obama have two daughters: Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11. Like their mother, the girls were born on the South Side of Chicago.

Additional reporting by Today.com

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