By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The daughter of U.S. President Barack Obama, Malia Obama, graduated from high school on Friday, achieving a milestone that her parents characteristically strove to keep out of the media spotlight.
The family’s motorcade sped down Washington streets en route to the graduation, but the White House press pool was kept in the parking lot of private high school Sidwell Friends, catching not even a glimpse of Malia though the sounds of the school brass band were faintly audible.
After the ceremony, Obama took his family to lunch at Cafe Milano, a tony Georgetown restaurant.
Obama has said he has been dreading this day, joking that he would be wearing sunglasses to hide his tears at the ceremony.
“When I was first elected to this office, Malia was 10 and Sasha was just seven. And they grow up too fast,” Obama said earlier this year at a State Dinner for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one of the rare official events at which his daughters were present.
“I’m starting to choke up,” Obama said, cutting his remarks short to contain the emotion.
Malia, 17, has grown up in the White House “bubble” in which a group of reporters follow her father wherever he goes and her mother, Michelle, is often in the public eye.
Malia’s parents have worked hard to shield her and her sister Sasha from the cameras. Still, Americans have caught a glimpse of them at special times such as when the president pardons the Thanksgiving turkey and his daughters laugh at his jokes, or when the family is on vacation in Hawaii and stops for a treat of shaved ice.
As the Jan. 20 end of his presidency nears, and Obama has become a bit nostalgic, he has talked about Malia.
Earlier this week, he told late-night host Jimmy Fallon on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” that Malia was “very eager to get out” of the White House, but he said both daughters have handled their unusual childhood well.
“They are wonderful girls. They are smart and funny. But most importantly, they’re kind. They don’t have an attitude,” Obama said, crediting his wife and her mother Marian Robinson, who lives at the White House with the family.
Last year, he said he was already “dreading that empty seat at the table” when Malia leaves home.
She has expressed interest in film and television and said last month she would attend Harvard University but not until the fall of 2017 after taking a “gap year” break from studies.
The Obamas plan to stay in Washington, D.C., after January so Sasha, who turned 15 on Friday, can finish school at Sidwell Friends.
“The idea of her having to transfer schools, move to a new city halfway through high school, would not make me popular,” Obama said on “The Tonight Show.”
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Toni Reinhold)