Were Friends part of Obama’s Evolution?

Pres­i­dent Obama’s been attribut­ing some of his so-called “evo­lu­tion” on same-sex mar­riage to his daugh­ters. As he told ABC’s Robin Roberts:

You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose par­ents are same-sex cou­ples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sit­ting around the din­ner table, and we’re talk­ing about their friends and their par­ents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that some­how their friends’ par­ents would be treat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly. It doesn’t make sense to them and, frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

So where do Obama’s daughter’s inde­pen­dent friends come from? Like most tweens the like­li­est answer is school – in their case, Sid­well Friends. It’s not unlike­ly that the “evo­lu­tion” owed some­thing to the Quak­er envi­ron­ment there.

Most élite Quak­er schools have only a token base of Quak­er stu­dents and teach­ers, so we can’t assume that Malia and Sasha’s friends are Friends. Like many outward-facing Quak­er insti­tu­tions, mod­ern Friends schools’ strongest claim to Quak­erism is the val­ues and dis­cern­ment tech­niques they share with the wider world. They con­scious­ly trans­mit a style and ped­a­gogy and cre­ate an envi­ron­ment of open­ness and diver­si­ty. Of course the Oba­ma kids are going to rub up against non-traditional mar­riages at a East Coast Quak­er school. And no one should be sur­prised if they bring a lit­tle of that back home when the school bus drops them off at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue.

NYTimes: Oba­ma Girls Influ­ence the Pres­i­dent — Again
Pres­i­dent Oba­ma often uses his daugh­ters, Malia and Sasha, as object lessons in explain­ing his rea­son­ing behind impor­tant pol­i­cy positions.

  • Kath­leen

    Whaaat? Just because it’s a Friends school and not some oth­er type of inde­pen­dent school? I doubt that had much to do with it. 

  • Min­is­ter Box

    Truth is stranger than fic­tion. Can we be sure at all that this is the “girls” idea, to approve this lifestyle? I think one must con­sid­er this in its full con­text and arrive at a bet­ter assess­ment IMHO I seri­ous­ly doubt that this is derived by influ­ence from the “girls” and that it is win­dow dress­ing for a par­tic­u­lar agen­da to make it more “appeal­ing” to “moder­ni­ty”, not based upon Quak­er influences. 

    • Obama’s a politi­cian, cer­tain­ly, and not above fram­ing fam­i­ly issues using his fam­i­ly. But I don’t think we have to assume this is mere­ly a dodge for a secret agen­da. Dick Cheney’s pro-gay posi­tion derives not from agen­da or ide­ol­o­gy but from hav­ing a les­bian daugh­ter. Much of the cul­tur­al shift hap­pen­ing in pub­lic atti­tudes on LGBTQ issues it’s com­ing from expo­sure to rel­a­tives, neigh­bors and class­mates who defy the narrow-minded stereo­types. It would indeed be hard for Barack to sit at the White House din­ner table and say his daugh­ters’ friends’ par­ents mar­riages weren’t legit­i­mate. These con­ver­sa­tions were only a small part of his “evo­lu­tion,” but I see no rea­son for dis­miss­ing them out of hand.