The storied relationship between President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama is the stuff of movies (called Southside with You). However, the tale in its entirety includes an aspect that people sometimes forget: the Obamas met in the latter half of their twenties. The Obamas became acquainted when their work lives crossed paths at Sidley & Austin, a Chicago law firm. Before that time, both Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, née Robinson, lived full lives and dated other people. In fact, a new report indicates that Barack Obama was once engaged to a woman named Sheila Miyoshi Jager.
These days, Sheila Miyoshi Jager is a professor at Oberlin College in Ohio, but long ago, before Barack Obama could even admit to many people that he thought about running for president of the United States, Jager was on the cusp of marrying him. Pulitzer Prize-winning author David J. Garrow includes discussion of Mr. Obama's relationship with Jager in his new book Rising Star.
Rising Star out the story of Barack Obama's former relationship with Sheila Miyoshi Jager (via the Washington Post), indicating that Obama proposed to Jager in the summer of 1986 before he headed off to Harvard Law School. From the sound of it, Obama grappled with uncertainty about his life's direction---like people sometimes do, especially in their early twenties. Jager said in the book that she felt like Barack Obama proposed to her "out of a sense of desperation" over the idea that they were eventually going to break up once he moved away for law school. She indicated that Obama seemed not to have a lot of faith in the relationship, which led to him proposing to her out of fear of the unknown.
Apparently, the relationship became strained because his career ambitions and personal goals were pulling him in opposing directions. Barack Obama tried hard to "compartmentalize his work and home life," and Jager began to feel isolated from the professional life he was cultivating. The engagement began to dissolve when Barack Obama and his former fiancé reportedly started arguing about whether their relationship was a detriment to his public service ambitions and if social attitudes toward interracial marriage would prevent him from making his way to the top. According to Garrow's book, Obama "felt trapped between the woman he loved and the destiny he knew was his."
Today, of course, Barack and Michelle Obama have made history together, and they get to enjoy the perks of some well-earned vacation time. Sure, the story about Barack Obama's early love is chock full of twenty-something drama and heartache, but it is refreshing to get a glimpse at his rather "normal" life before the wheels began turning. Besides, we think it is safe to say everything turned out the way it should have.
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