Pete Souza/The White House
The future first family spent their early years in Chicago, where Barack served as a state senator after tying the knot with Michelle on Oct. 3, 1992. Six years later, the pair welcomed their first child together, daughter Malia, on July 4, 1998.
"I miss the days when you thought the fireworks were for you," the doting dad said in a 23rd birthday tribute for his elder daughter in 2021.
Malia's younger sister, Sasha, was born on June 10, 2001. Eight years later, the family moved to Washington, D.C., in January 2009, after Barack, then representing Illinois in the United States Senate, was elected president.
At the time, the move was difficult for the family — while campaigning in 2008, Barack told PEOPLE that he was "absolutely certain, because we've talked about it, that [Malia and Sasha] are not looking forward to moving" nor to "the prospects of having to make new friends." He added, "So I'm sure that there's a part of them that says we won't be heartbroken if things don't work out."
Michelle Obama Instagram
Things did work out: Malia and Sasha were 8 and 10 at the time, respectively, when they moved into the White House. They lived there throughout their father's two terms, from 2009 to 2017. While in D.C., they attended the private Sidwell Friends School through high school graduation.
The girls adjusted well to life there, Michelle told PEOPLE in December 2011. "My girls are settled, they're healthy, they're thriving. They have a normal life."
"Now they're both old enough, where they just enjoy each other's company," Barack said of his daughters in 2020, "and to be together as a family and see how they've become these marvelous young women — there's been no greater joy than that."
The Obamas have done their best to keep their daughters out of the spotlight over the years, offering only occasional insights into the girls' personal lives. From their childhood hobbies and how they navigated their father's presidency to their activism and Secret Service agents crashing their dates, here's everything to know about Malia and Sasha Obama.
Malia Obama, 24
Born on July 4, 1998, in Chicago, Malia is the older child of Barack and Michelle Obama.
Growing up, Malia's parents described her as "wise and thoughtful." She collected keychains and took drama classes, the Obamas told PEOPLE in 2008; by first grade, she was setting her own alarm and making her bed every morning.
"My 9-year-old is always coming up with remarkable things," Barack said after noting that his girls "always make me cry" with "how good-hearted they are."
He offered an example, telling PEOPLE, "When [Malia] was 6 years old [...] we were walking along the lake, holding hands, and she turned to me and said, 'Daddy, are we rich?' I said, 'We're very well off compared to a lot of people, but we're not really rich, as some people might define really rich.' And she said, 'Well, that's good because I don't want to be really rich. I think I want to live a simple life.' And I looked at her and wondered, 'Where did she come up with that?'" he mused.
In January 2020, Barack described Malia to InStyle as "somebody who enjoys people, enjoys life and enjoys conversation. She's never bored, which is a badass quality that can take you places."
Barack Obama Instagram Barack and Malia Obama
Despite being part of the first family, Malia did enjoy one typical teen rite of passage: prom. Her dad confirmed in 2014 that she had indeed gone to the dance as a sophomore, and while he joked that whether or not she went with a date was "classified information," he remarked that it was "jarring" to see his little girl all grown up.
"I think it's fair to say that the first time you see your daughter in heels is a little bit jarring," he said on Live with Kelly & Michael. "She's lovely. She's beautiful."
After graduating high school in 2016, Malia took a year off before enrolling at Harvard University, where she graduated in 2021. "They're ready to get out, just out from their parents' house," Barack told PEOPLE of his daughters in December 2016. "The fact that their parents' house is the White House may add to it. But Malia's going off to college. She's a grown woman."
During her gap year and throughout university, she displayed a strong interest in the TV industry, landing internships on Lena Dunham's Girls and at the Weinstein Company before working as a production assistant on Halle Berry's CBS sci-fi drama series Extant.
These days, Malia is putting those experiences to work as a writer on Donald Glover's upcoming Amazon series, which centers on a Beyoncé-esque character.
The Atlanta star praised Malia's writing abilities and strong work ethic, telling Vanity Fair, "She's just like, an amazingly talented person." He continued, "She's really focused, and she's working really hard."
"I feel like she's just somebody who's gonna have really good things coming soon," Glover added. "Her writing style is great."
In addition to her writing, Malia has demonstrated an interest in activism, marching in Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020 alongside her younger sister.
Michelle has said that the bond between Malia and Sasha is something that she and Barack treasure most.
"I think that they realize that they have a unique bond because they're the only two who know what they just went through — growing up in the White House with the brightest spotlight in the world on you as you were going through adolescence and puberty. They uniquely know what that means for them," she told PEOPLE in an interview previewing her latest book, The Light We Carry.
And though the proud mom is thrilled to see her girls "thriving on their own as individual young women," she's also still fiercely protective of her daughters. During an interview with People en Español, Michelle explained that the hardest truth to share in her book was anything having to do with Malia and Sasha.
"It is hard for me to delve too deeply, for example, into the lessons I've learned as a parent because I'm trying to protect the privacy of my girls," she explained. "You have to pull back on how much you share about their lives and how much you put them back out in the public eye because they're not looking for the attention."
To celebrate her 24th birthday in July 2022, both of Malia's parents shared sweet tributes to her on social media.
Michelle posted a throwback snap of her and Malia as a baby, writing: "24 years ago, this day became extra special when your wonderful spirit arrived in this world. I'm so proud of the beautiful, caring and driven young woman you've become. I love you so, so much! Love, your Mommy."
The A Promised Land author also shared a photo of himself and baby Malia, writing: "Happy birthday, Malia! No matter how sophisticated, accomplished, beautiful and gracious a young woman you've become — you'll always be my baby. And I will always be here to lift you up."
Sasha Obama, 21
Born on June 10, 2001, in Chicago, Sasha is the younger child of Barack and Michelle Obama. She grew up playing basketball, taking tap dance lessons and doing gymnastics. Along with her older sister, she also played tennis and took piano lessons. The rules in their household were straightforward: "No whining," the Obamas said.
"Sasha is more like Michelle," Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, who lived with the family in the White House, told PEOPLE in 2007. "She's more determined. She's got her own mind made up." Malia, meanwhile, reminded her more of her son, Michelle's brother Craig. "She goes along just to keep peace and she's a worrier."
"Sasha is, as Malia describes it, completely confident about her own take on the world and is not cowed or intimidated — and never has been — by anybody's titles, anybody's credentials. If she thinks something's wrong or right, she will say so," the former president told InStyle in January 2020.
The Obamas have praised their daughters to PEOPLE from a young age, remarking on how "funny" and "smart and kind and decent" they are.
"My younger one, Sasha, is just full of energy and the comedian in the family," Barack told PEOPLE in 2008.
Describing one of her funniest moments at the time, he recounted, "I was in bed. The girls came in. I was sleeping late after 10 days straight on the campaign. And Michelle, who wakes up early all the time, comes in and starts turning on the lights, jostling us and saying it's time to get up and dressed for school. And Sasha says, 'Awww, Mommy, we are peace!' She meant peaceful, I gather," he said with a laugh. "So now, whenever Michelle and I want some quiet time, we say, 'We are peace! I am peace!'"
Barack Obama/Twitter Barack Obama with daughter Sasha Obama
While Sasha has been hailed as the funny one in the family, poking fun at Barack seems to be a group activity that everyone partakes in.
"I am generally the brunt of every joke in the household," the former president said during a July 2021 appearance on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, revealing that "the three of them just mock me constantly" for faux pas like "if I mispronounce the name of some hip-hop star that Sasha's been listening to."
In the episode, Barack also talked about Sasha's friendship with President Joe Biden's granddaughter, Maisy Biden. "[She] was one of Sasha's best friends and still is growing up," he said, reflecting fondly on having coached their fourth-grade basketball team, The Vipers. "They went to the same school."
After Sasha graduated from D.C.'s Sidwell Friends School in 2019, she enrolled at the University of Michigan, where she began taking classes online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to PEOPLE about having both of his daughters home again during the pandemic, Barack admitted that "there are times where it's felt claustrophobic, I'm sure, for them."
"But for Michelle and me as parents, to have this bonus time where your kids are having dinner with you every night and we're playing games and watching movies together — there's been a lot of joy to that," he added.
Both Sasha and Malia have since moved out of their parent's home and are living together in Los Angeles. Sasha transferred to the University of Southern California, where she's studying psychology.
Michelle discussed the moment her girls announced they were moving in together while speaking with PEOPLE in November 2022.
"You try not to react too much because it's like, you don't want to go, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so happy for you!' because then they think, 'Well, maybe this is not a good thing if my mom likes it,' " she said while previewing her book.
"So I just said, 'Okay, well that's interesting that you guys are going to try living together. We'll see how it goes.' But yeah, it feels good to know that the two girls you raised find solace at a kitchen table with one another. It's like the one thing you want for them."
Michelle also revealed in The Light We Carry that Sasha and Malia have made their shared apartment their own, "having poked around yard sales and shopped at a nearby IKEA, watching their budget." The girls have even hosted their parents for pre-dinner drinks, though Michelle admits their cocktail game could use a little work.
"The martinis were a little weak. I don't think they really knew what it was," the proud mom joked while recalling the evening during an appearance on the Today show.
Barack Obama/Instagram From left: Michelle, Sasha, Barack and Malia Obama
To celebrate Sasha's 21st birthday in June 2022, the Obamas shared loving tributes to their youngest daughter on social media, with her dad reminding her that "no matter how old you get — you'll always be my baby girl. Look at those cheeks!"
Michelle shared a similar snap, writing, "My baby has grown into a beautiful, independent, compassionate, highly capable young woman. But you will always be my littlest pea." She continued, "I'm so proud of the human you are becoming. Love, your Mommy."
Despite being her "littlest pea," Sasha is growing up, the Becoming author remarked during an April 2022 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, revealing that both of her daughters have boyfriends now.
"They loved the Jonas Brothers. Now they are bringing grown men home," she joked. "Before it was just, like, pop bands. Now they have boyfriends and real lives."
Previously, Barack had commented on their love lives during a May 2021 appearance on The Late Late Show, joking that his daughters still "have PTSD" from Secret Service agents trailing them on their dates.
"They still have PTSD from guys talking into their wrist microphones and glasses as they're trying to go to a music concert," he laughed.