On Saturday, Aug. 26, a freshman went to a salad shop with a friend. But this wasn't any ordinary college freshman, it was a former White House resident. On what should've been a perfectly banal excursion for a first-year student, a woman asked for a picture with Malia Obama at Harvard Square before she went into the shop, according to TMZ. The woman then waited outside the salad shop and filmed the 19-year-old as she exited.
Understandably frustrated, Obama asked the woman,
Are you going to take it in my face like an animal in a cage?
The woman was reportedly asking for a picture for her grandchild. Eventually, according to TMZ, Obama agreed and took a picture for her.
You might disagree with the deadpan tone Obama took in addressing the woman (as the *ssholes on Twitter have), but Obama was right to decline taking a picture with her. In fact, Obama shouldn't have had to reject her in the first place -- the woman never should have asked.
It is, of course, true that Obama is famous. She has a face that most Americans would recognize, and there is a certain fascination about her. With that in mind, you'd get why someone would want to take a picture of her.
But Malia Obama is not famous of her own choosing, and that's why she's owed her privacy. Obama was just 8 years old when her father, Barack, announced that he would be running for president in February 2007. It's not exactly like she had much agency in her family's move to the White House.
Unlike, for example, an actor, Obama did not step into the spotlight herself. Subsequently, in her eight years in the White House, she did not attempt to claim the spotlight by, say, becoming an official and lobbying for policies. She just lived her life as a kid growing up in a kind of unusual household.
Sure, Obama is now an "adult" since she's older than 18. But, again, she is not out here trying to get famous. She's working internships and getting an education, like millions of other 19-year-olds around the country. She isn't getting on a reality TV show or writing a tell-all book. She's just going to school.
Obama didn't ask for you to know who she is. She doesn't owe you anything. But after eight years of her family's service to this country, you owe her something: privacy.
If you happen to be in Cambridge and see her around, don't run up to her and make her late for class. Don't ask for a picture with her, and don't surreptitiously film her. If she's in your seminar, don't record her discussions. If you see her at a party, for the love of God, just let her have fun without telling TMZ about it.
Malia Obama gave America eight pivotal years of her life. The least we can do is let her try to be a normal college kid.