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Emotional Obama set for daughter Malia's high school graduation

Published 10/06/2016

US president Barack Obama with his daughter Malia (AP)
US president Barack Obama with his daughter Malia (AP)

A milestone has arrived for US president Barack Obama as his daughter Malia graduates from high school.

The 17-year-old is receiving her diploma from the private Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC on Friday.

Malia was just 10 years old and longing for a promised puppy when her family moved into the White House.

During seven years of growing up in the public eye she has had and shed braces, learned to drive and even spent brief stints away from her family.

Presidents are parents, too, and it has not been easy for Mr Obama to watch as his daughter - "one of my best friends" - has grown up fast, and in front of the world.

"I'm not going to talk about the fact that my daughter leaving me is just breaking my heart," he said last week.

Months ago, the president blamed his emotions for declining an invitation to deliver the commencement address at the elite school where Malia is among 127 members of the Class of 2016. Younger sister Sasha, who turned 15 on Friday, attends Sidwell, too.

Malia is taking a year out for herself before enrolling at Harvard in the autumn of 2017.

Neither Mr Obama nor his wife, Michelle, has said what Malia has planned for her "gap year".

But delaying the start of university could keep her close to her tight-knit family as it prepares for another big transition next year: the end of Mr Obama's groundbreaking presidency.

The Obamas plan to stay in Washington for several years after the president leaves office so Sasha can finish high school there.

Both parents often praise Malia and her sister for being normal, happy children despite living lives that are anything but normal.

They were the youngest children to call the White House home since President John F Kennedy's children, Caroline and John Jr, and they were trailed in public by Secret Service agents.

Mr Obama has joked that it was comforting to know that when his girls were out and about they were being watched over by "men with guns".

Malia has travelled to Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean with her parents, and taken a school trip to Mexico. She has met celebrities and high-powered people, including two popes.

The first lady has said her daughter wants to be a film-maker.

Malia has had summer internships on the New York set of HBO's Girls and in Los Angeles on a CBS sci-fi drama, since cancelled, that starred Halle Berry. The experiences allowed her to sample life on her own, though not outside the reach of her Secret Service protectors.

Three months into her new White House life, Malia got the long-awaited puppy: Bo, a Portuguese water dog that was less likely than other breeds to aggravate her allergies. Mr Obama had promised his children a dog after the November 2008 election.

The young girl whose swing set still sits just outside the Oval Office is now taller than her 6ft 1in father, and turns heads whenever she is spotted around town - including driving her car. Secret Service agents taught her how to drive.

At school, Malia played football and tennis, the flute and piano.

In a house with 132 rooms, she opted not to share one with her sister. Both girls get themselves up early every day to get ready for school, the first lady has said. They also make their own beds and handle their washing.

Malia turns 18 on July 4, in time to cast her first vote for president - and for her father's successor.

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From Belfast Telegraph