Family life: Obama writes a letter to his daughters – but all of America gets to read it too

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The Independent US

The Obama children, seven-year-old Sasha and 10-year-old Malia, are full of excitement about their new school, their bedrooms which are to have a make-over by Hollywood's top designer and of course the new puppy – a labradoodle or a Portuguese water dog – who will soon be scampering around the family quarters of the White House.

Now they have received a personal letter from their father ahead of the hullabaloo of Tuesday's inauguration. The letter is personal in the sense that it begins "Dear Malia and Sasha," but, in yet another Obama masterstroke, its contents are to be shared with billions of readers around the world.

Any carping has been silenced by the sheer eloquence of Mr Obama's writing and his vivid evocation of his children's' "curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day". Mr Obama quickly explains how the two little girls made him realise that his own life would not count for much unless he was able to ensure they "had every opportunity for happiness and fulfilment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation".

Whether this really is a personal letter to his youngsters is a moot point. But it will be reprinted in millions of newspapers this weekend under the headline "What I want for you – and every child in America".

As his daughters, his younger sister back in Hawaii and his former university students know, Mr Obama is always on the lookout for what he calls "teachable moments". The President-elect's extraordinary skill with language and his common touch should make these experiences more palatable for the American people than former president Jimmy Carter's carping about the country's spendthrift ways.

"Today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey," Mr Obama tells his daughters in the letter. He has plans he said to "push the boundaries of discoveries" and to "push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other". Maybe he is writing it for posterity, but it does seem a mouthful for the excitable young children to take on board as they join that elite group of young people who have grown up in the White House, their formative years spent under the microscope of public scrutiny.

Barack and Michelle Obama have made clear they intend to shield the two from the media but the children have also been handy props on the campaign trail, helping to sell a wholesome family image to a sceptical nation. The girls have the added burden of being looked up to by an entire generation of children black, Hispanic and Asian children. "They will be role models for kids, who will look up to them," said Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at the Emory University in Atlanta. "There will be lots of pressure on them because they are African-American, pressure to excel academically, not to get into trouble and to behave appropriately."

Already media darlings, the Obama girls have appeared on the covers of People magazine and US Weekly. The red dress that Malia wore on election night cost $110 and has been flying off the shelves at a top department store. The internet is abuzz with photographs of them, out in costume on Halloween, wolfing down ice cream and heading off for the first day of school in Washington.

We even know that Malia will write her school essays in the Lincoln bedroom to get her inspiration and that the girls get a miserly $1 a week allowance. But after Tuesday, when they are officially First Children, they will still have to make their own beds and – as their finger-wagging dad has warned – "scoop the poop" of their new puppy off the White House lawn, or anywhere else.

Read the letter in full at: www.parade.com/export/sites/default/news/2009/01/barack-obama-letter-to-my-daughters.html

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