When Sidwell Friends School asked President Obama if he would like to speak at his elder daughter’s graduation this spring, he declined.
“I’m going to be wearing dark glasses,” he told a group of lunch companions during a visit to Detroit earlier this year, “I’m going to cry.”
Barack Obama was true to his word Friday. He did not speak at Malia Obama’s commencement ceremony, which he and the first lady attended along with family and friends of other graduates of the elite private school in Northwest Washington.
“He was just a total dad,” the mother of a graduating senior said of the president. “No fanfare. You didn’t know they were there.”
If the president did cry during the outdoor ceremony, his tears were hidden behind his sunglasses.
Inside the gates of the school’s campus, nestled in the woodsy fringe of Tenleytown, Malia was just one of 127 graduates. Like the other young women, she wore a white dress — the young men were in suits — and walked down the stairs of the Zartman House administrative building to take her seat on the lawn beneath vines of wisteria.
Sidwell did its best to close the ceremony to the press. The Obamas, who also celebrated the 15th birthday of younger daughter Sasha on Friday with a post-ceremony luncheon at Georgetown’s Cafe Milano, wanted to treat the event as a family affair — and the school and others in attendance tried to respect that desire.
President Obama drew no attention to himself, and there was no special attention paid to the first family during the ceremony.