This past week on Nov. 24, a Snapchat video began circulating of Malia Obama blowing smoke rings while hanging out with friends at Harvard University. This was preceded by a separate video from TMZ of her kissing a boy at the Harvard vs. Yale football game on Nov. 18. The media rushed to cover both these “stories” and critique the former first daughter, with news outlets like The Daily Mail making her behavior out to be more scandalous than it actually is for someone her age. This prompted celebrities and namely fellow first daughters Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton to come out in her defense, countering the infringement on her personal life. Needless to say, such encroachment on Obama’s time as a young person by a media seeking to prey on her is despicable and she should have her privacy respected regardless of the popularity of her family.
In a rare moment for me, I was in total agreement with both Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump in their supportive tweets relating the news coverage of Obama’s behaviors. Clinton’s show of support stated that “Malia Obama’s private life, as a young woman, a college student, a private citizen, should not be your clickbait. Be better.” Trump echoed the sentiment, saying, “Malia Obama should be allowed the same privacy as her school-aged peers. She is a young adult and private citizen, and should be OFF limits.” Historically, there is a standard set by the first family; they are meant to embody top American values, and to exemplify appropriate behavior fit for the leader of a country. However, I would argue that even if Malia Obama was still the first daughter with her father as the acting president, she should still be allowed to go about her business as freely as she does now.
Being close in age with her, I cannot even imagine trying to live my life and do what I want to do with the level of media scrutiny that is always present in her daily life. She probably has a hard enough time going about her day with cameras documenting her every move and Secret Service guarding her every second of every day without added criticism of these same behaviors. She’s most likely used to it by now, but how do you go through college when every interaction you have, every kiss you have and every party or event you attend is recorded by a national news outlet? And not only is it recorded, but it’s analyzed and sometimes shamed by adults often more than twice your age, which is also displayed for a nation worth of people to see. How do you figure anything out about yourself with the whole country watching? How do you make mistakes and learn from them without adults that aren’t even your parents chastising you at every turn? As a fellow college student, I can say with complete confidence that Malia Obama has plenty to deal with on a day-to-day basis without the added media attention she gets whenever she smokes with her friends.
Even though the Obamas are still seen by many as a family that should be held to a higher standard in terms of how they publicly conduct themselves, there are much more pressing stories happening in the world today besides what the eldest first daughter does at college. We as a country should be focusing our attention on those pressing stories and let Malia Obama enjoy her years at Harvard like every other student currently attending college in the U.S.