Friday, 20 Jun 2014 10:12 AM
By Drew MacKenzie
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama want their teenage daughters to get minimum wage jobs to build their characters just like they did when they were younger.
In a Parade magazine cover story this week, the Obamas said that Malia, 15, and Sasha, 13, must learn early in life what it feels like to do really hard work with not enough pay.
“We are looking for opportunities for them to feel as if going to work and getting a paycheck is not always fun, not always stimulating, not always fair,” said the president. “But that’s what most folks go through every single day.”
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The first lady added, “That’s what life is. I think every kid needs to get a taste of what it’s like to do that real hard work.”
Malia, who will turn 16 on July 4, has reportedly been working as a production assistant on a Steven Spielberg-produced television show this summer, according to Reuters.
The Obamas took part in the interview to promote their Working Families summit in Washington, D.C., on Monday, focusing on the need for affordable childcare, paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for men and women.
They said that before they got their Ivy League law degrees and started earning a good living, they both worked at minimum-wage jobs.
“My last year in high school, I worked at a bindery, side by side with grown-ups who had been there their entire lives,” said Michelle Obama. “Knowing that I, as a 16-year-old, was getting the same income and doing the same work, it gave me respect for those workers.
“But it also gave me an understanding that more is needed for folks to be able to cobble together a decent life on minimum wage.”
The president, who has worked as a painter and once scooped ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, said, “My first four jobs were minimum wage or close to it.”
He was also a waiter in an assisted-living facility. “It was a great job, although the folks there sometimes were cranky because they were on restricted diets. Mr. Smith would want more salt, and you’d say, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. You’re not allowed.'”
The Obamas revealed in the interview that after graduating from law school, they struggled financially at first while living for a year on the second floor of Michelle’s mother’s house and driving a used $1,000 car.
The president revealed that his motivation for the working family summit was partially based on their experiences of juggling parenting and careers while also facing a mountain of debt.
“Look, we had Malia, and then three years later we have Sasha,” he said. “At that point, our student loans are still more than our mortgage. Michelle’s working full time. I have three jobs. There are stretches where I’ll be away for three days at a time. If the babysitter can’t make it, Michelle’s the one who’s got to scramble and figure it out.”
“But what it made me think about was people who were on the clock,” the president said. “If you’re an hourly worker, and you say, ‘I’ve got to take three days off,’ you may lose your job. At minimum, you’re losing income you can’t afford to lose,” he said.