The next four years for Sasha and Malia Obama will likely be marked by many teenage milestones, including dates, proms and college. But the Obama girls have former first daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush and Chelsea Clinton, before them to look up to for guidance.
When Sasha and Malia entered the White House in 2009, they were 7 and 11. Now, at 11 and 14, their lives are set to change as they enter their later teenage years during their father’s second term.
Chelsea Clinton was 12 when her father, Bill Clinton, became the 42nd president. Her first four years as first daughter were very similar to the Obamas’. Clinton rarely gave interviews and glimpses into her childhood in the White House by the public were few.
After a “Saturday Night Live” skit mocked Clinton, then 12, for her awkward appearance, her parents and their aides declined to respond to inquiries into Clinton’s young life.
With Sasha and Malia still at a young age, they have remained relatively off limits to the public as well except for public appearances with their parents.
“It’s a tough issue,” Bob Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University told ABCNews.com. “There is a sense that if a president has young children, those children didn’t sign on to be president. Even though he is the ultimate in public figures, the kids are in a difficult territory.”
Before public events, Obama tells his girls, “Just look like you’re listening to me,” while their mother, Michelle Obama, reminds them to smile, she told talk show host Jimmy Kimmel , adding that they don’t have a “poker face.”
But as Chelsea Clinton entered her father’s second term, she was 16, just two years older than Malia is now. Clinton made more public appearances including a 12 day trip to South Asia with her mother, during which Clinton made her first public statement to the media.
As the Obama girls get older during their father’s second term, they may become more involved in his public life as well. The girls have already started making public appearances with their mother, including a six-day trip to South Africa and Botswana last year, during which they met Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“If you’re the child of somebody who is the president of the United States, you’re going to have opportunities and have doors open to you that you otherwise would never have,” Thompson said.
Malia will be 18 at the end of her father’s second term. She will likely be filling out college applications just like Clinton, who chose Stanford University while her parents were in the White House. Clinton arrived at the university in a motorcade with her parents—and the Secret Service, who dressed as students and lived in her dorm throughout her four years.
“If Malia Obama sends her resume to some place or applies to college, people are going to pay attention in a way that they wouldn’t with anyone else,” Thompson said.
The Obama girls, like other first children before them, may also have to explore young love in the public eye. During Clinton’s life as the president’s daughter, her relationships with fellow Stanford student Matthew Pierce and White House intern Jeremy Kane, were watched closely by the media.
“I have men with guns that surround them [Sasha and Malia] — often,” Obama, laughing, told “Good Morning America’s” Robin Roberts earlier this year. “And a great incentive for running for re-election is that it means they never get in the car with a boy who had a beer. And that’s a pretty good thing!”
“I think they are…the first kids in the White House growing up where everybody’s got a cellphone and everybody’s watching,” the first lady told iVillage last month. “You may be having a moment, but somebody could use that moment and try to define you forever.”
When Chelsea Clinton entered the White House, she was an awkward tween with big, curly hair and the style of a young teen. But as she matured during her father’s second term, Clinton showed off a sleeker hairdo and a fashionable sense of a style.