Michelle Obama in a speech to to a Nato group at the Gary Comer Center:
Way back when I was just starting out in my career in Chicago, I ran a little organization called Public Allies, where we worked to train 30 young people each year — many of them like you — for careers in public service. And since we started that program many years ago, leaders from that program have gone on to transform lives throughout this community and so many others not just here in Chicago, but around the country. But there are some very special ones who are here today, and I got to meet three public allies who are working here right now — Miguel Rodriguez, Maurice Wilson, and Sinya Hayes, who are here. You guys — are you here? (Applause.) Where are you? That’s my public allies. That’s like home.
This program was the reason — one of the reasons why I left practicing law — so you know I walked away from some money to do this work. But Public Allies will always have a special place in my heart.
She walked away from “some money” to to do this work? Yea, she walked away from “some money” over to a bigger pile of money.
Quick review of her history: Michelle Obama went to Princeton then to Harvard, and after graduating, she was hired as an associate at a Chicago Law firm. Following this:
In 1991, she held public sector positions in the Chicago city government as an Assistant to the Mayor, and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. She worked there nearly four years and set fundraising records for the organization that still stood 12 years after she left.
Non-profit does NOT mean that she wasn’t well-paid, or that the salary was much different from her income as a law associate. Flopping Aces:
Michelle Obama had led the typical Mom life. She was given a job at a law firm following graduation, she married Barack Obama and almost immediately gave up her license to practice law. She then went to work for Public Allies, where she was founding Executive Director. While I have not been able to learn Obama’s salary at Public Allies, the website does offer a hint:
“Working for nonprofit organizations does not mean being poor. Unlike the humorous Onion headline “Nonprofit Organization Fights Poverty with Poverty,” many nonprofit organizations provide competitive pay and benefits for many positions.”
Her salary history remains murky until Barack Obama was elected to the Senate. Then her salary tripled to $316,000 per year. Her job apparently was to divert indigent patients away from the profitable University of Chicago. Michelle Obama’s total income for 2007 was nearly $500,000.
Seems like she really didn’t leave behind a huge pile of money.
Besides, let’s not pretend that Michelle’s leaving Sidney Austin was entirely altruistic:
The move was not without its benefits. Michelle Obama’s stint at the mayor’s office gave her, and her husband, access to Chicago’s political class. Combined with her own Southside roots — she went to high school with Santita Jackson, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s daughter — Michelle’s job gave her husband entrée into the best political machine in Illinois, augmenting her ties to Jackson’s powerful civil rights group, Rainbow Push.
It was political.
As Obama gradually moved further away from grass-roots organizing and into business and politics, Michelle seemed to fill the vacuum. After 18 months, she left the mayor’s office to head up the Chicago office of a new charity that was forming: Public Allies, which helps place young people at nonprofits.
About that paltry salary? This from an NPR article:
Obama was promoted to a vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals; her salary nearly tripled, from $122,000 to $316,000 a year.
$122,000 isn’t exactly chicken feed. This was a non-profit job. But it paid pretty well. Michelle was 29, and making $122,000. She sacrificed so much.
And then of course, Michelle hit pay dirt at the University of Chicago.
Eventually, the money she had initially walked away from in corporate law did come. Her salary last year between the university and six boards approached $500,000.
Bingo. By 2007, Michelle was a member of the 1%.
We all know how Michelle is doing now.