While President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama won’t get to celebrate their hometown Chicago hosting the next Olympics (Rio beat out the Windy City, Tokyo and Madrid as host of the 2016 Summer Games), the couple will be celebrating another milestone — their 17th wedding anniversary on Saturday, their first since moving into the White House. And you can guarantee Barack will plan something romantic!
Last year he gave Michelle a bouquet of white roses, which more than compensated for his small slip-up when he thought it was his 15th anniversary. At least the Pres had the day right!
“He always sends Michelle flowers and he’s very careful to remember all the important dates,” says Christopher Andersen, author of Barack and Michelle: Portrait of An American Marriage. “They make a concerted effort and they have from the beginning of his public life to keep the romance alive.”
Andersen’s recently released book has new behind-the-scenes details on the First Couple’s romantic courtship, early struggles and how they keep the spark and passion in their rock-strong marriage.
“Every day at the White House when they are there together, which is most of the time, he has what he calls ‘Michelle time’ and they get together even if its just for a half hour, together alone,” says Andersen, who spoke with more than 200 people close to the couple for the book. “Jack and Jackie Kennedy had the same thing. They just make time for each other, they go out on dates.”
However, it wasn’t love at first sight – for Michelle at least. Barack had to court the First Lady, who at the time was his boss when he was a summer intern at a Chicago law firm.
“She didn’t think it was appropriate for them to be dating and he kept on hammering away and finally she said, ‘okay I’ll go on this non-date with you to the movies,” Andersen recounts of their first date when they went to see Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing. “She was hesitant and finally she went with him and of course who do they run into in the lobby, but their boss! He said it was so cute, like two embarrassed teenagers. Years later, the President thanked Spike Lee because that was the first time Michelle let him touch her knee.”
What started out as G-rated affection would turn into the romance of a lifetime and a family with their two daughters, Sasha, 8, and Malia, 11. Despite living life in the spotlight and the pressure of the White House, what surprised Andersen the most was how “normal” the famous First Couple is.
“If we look at them as just people, we have to admire how strong they are as a couple,” he explains. “Michelle says I don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea, we have a strong marriage but it’s not perfect. That’s what kind of makes it perfect.”
The fire hasn’t fizzled since their move to the White House. From their romantic Broadway date in New York where they saw Joe Turner’s Come and Gone on May 30 to playing charades with friends and friendly competitions of Scrabble, the Obamas know how to keep the relationship exciting.
“You’ll see them exchange glances from across the room and they touch if they get close enough to each other, almost imperceptibly, it’s almost telepathic between them,” Andersen says. “The ultimate power couple is also the ultimate love story.”