For President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, family dinners are crucial. “They're absolutely important. I mean, Barack and I have tried to hold fast to the family dinner, almost every evening,” the first lady told NBC’s TODAY contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, who is no stranger to growing up in the White House. “I mean, now we've got kids who have sports and, you know, dances and things like that.”
The mother of Malia, 16, and Sasha, 13, continued, “That's really the time when you get to hear, you know, the little things and the voice of your kids that might be wrong or right, you know? You can kind of check their temperature.”
Michelle and Barack also get to reflect over a “good meal.” The 51-year-old , who wore a navy dress for the TODAY interview, explained, “It’s a good opportunity for Barack to just forget about the worries of the world that he carries around. And we can just be a family.”
Growing up, it was no different for Michelle. “There was a pattern to what we ate,” she told Cooking Light's March issue about her childhood meals. “There were familiar flavors … we would sit around the table with the plastic tablecloth, and that’s when we would catch up and we’d talk about what we were eating, talk about what was going on in the day.”
For the last several years, her table has been much more formal than when she was a kid, but with her decorating skills, the White House dining room has never looked better. Michelle recently made some much-needed changes to the famous hall as the last person to spruce it up was Jackie Kennedy in 1963.
Don't worry — Mrs. Obama kept some original pieces including a decades-old crystal chandelier. She did add some more modern flare that included a 1966 painting by Alma Thomas, the first African-American woman artist to be featured in the White House. Other new pieces included are works by Robert Rauschenberg, Josef Albers and Anni Albers.
“It’s a real statement in modern craftsmanship,” she mentioned to Jenna. "It's kind of unbelievable that we haven't done this before. Because modern art and design is such an important part of the American tradition.”
Just like anyone else picking out new items for a home, Michelle felt the task stressful. She said, “You have a really huge responsibility to make sure that the changes reflect the values of the house, that they reflect the values of the country.”
On Tuesday, Michelle and Jenna got to see the approval of the public by surprising visitors taking the White House public tour. The two unveiled the newly renovated dining room that was paid for by a donation from the White House Historical Association.
“Living here is such a gift. And you feel an awesome sense of responsibility to make sure you're taking care of this house,” the First Lady stated. “But you also want to make sure that Americans feel like it's their home, too.”
Job well done Michelle!