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President Obama reveals he cried when dropping off Malia at university

She's at Harvard, we think she'll be just fine

Words by Karen Mizoguchi

From the editors of PEOPLE

Former President Barack Obama was among the millions of parents who sent their kids off to college this fall — and like many, he shed some tears.

The 44th commander-in-chief recently revealed he was overcome with emotions when he and wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama moved their 19-year-old Malia into her campus residence at Harvard University in August.

‘For those of us who have daughters, it just happens fast. I dropped off Malia at college, and I was saying to Joe and Jill [Biden] that it was a little bit like open-heart surgery,’ Obama, 56, said at the Beau Biden Foundation‘s golf and tennis invitational at Delaware’s Wilmington Country Club on Sunday, according to a video shared by WDEL radio.

‘I was proud that I did not cry in front of her,’ Obama also joked. ‘But on the way back, the Secret Service was off, looking straight ahead, pretending they weren’t hearing me as I sniffled and blew my nose. It was rough.’

malia obama university

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Last June, Malia graduated from Washington, D.C.’s private Sidwell Friends School, and opted to take a gap year before starting at Harvard.

The proud father of two also said that Malia’s momentous Harvard sendoff was ‘a reminder that, at the end of our lives, whatever else we’ve accomplished, the things that we’ll remember are the joys that our children – and hopefully way later, our grandchildren – bring us.’

Though Malia briefly delayed the start of her college years, Obama told PEOPLE in December 2016 that his older daughter – and her younger sister Sasha, 16 – were ‘ready to get out, just out from their parents’ house.’

The mother of two added, ‘Malia’s going off to college. She’s a grown woman.’

And earlier this month, Obama shared the three pieces of advice he and his wife have tried to impress upon their daughters, including the importance of being kind, considerate, empathetic and hardworking.

‘These are the tools by which you can shape the world around you in a way that feels good,’ he said.

Former Vice President Biden created the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children in 2015 to honour his late son’s legacy in ‘protecting the most vulnerable among us,’ including protecting children from abuse.

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