Craig Robinson is known to many as the Oregon State basketball coach, to others as First Lady Michelle Obama’s brother, but to those working for the Obama campaign in Philadelphia, he was their guest of honor.
Robinson visited an Obama campaign office in Northwest Philadelphia Saturday morning to “rally the troops,” promote voter registration and make sure that the staff and volunteers knew that the First Family appreciated their efforts.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, he talked about policies affecting college students, specifically focusing on Pell Grants and college affordability from the perspective of a university coach and a former student.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for [Pell Grants]. That is one that is near and dear to my heart and if that was the only issue on the table, that may be a deal breaker for me one way or the other,” Robinson said. “A whole lot of us would not be where we are without those student loans and those grants that we were able to get that made college affordable.”
He described his life growing up with the First Lady. “The values that were instilled were hard work and stick-to-itiveness, hard work, discipline and all those kind of things, but one thing I got out of — and I know my sister got out of — our parents was an investment in education. That’s extremely important.”
“She had grants and she had student loans to pay back,” Robinson said of Michelle Obama. “I know this is important to her, and I know this is important to the president.”
Robinson asserted it does not matter which city you live in: “Everyone who has grown up with the notion of going to college has to rethink it if the other side wins.” He told the story of a woman who babysits for the Robinson family and has to “not only babysit for us but babysits every night of the week so that she can afford to stay in school. That is where it hits home.”
The voter ID law in Pennsylvania was another charged topic at the campaign office.
Robinson emphasized the necessity of being pragmatic in light of the new law. “I would approach it like I approach officials in a basketball game,” he said. “Sometimes they make bad calls and sometimes they make good calls, but whatever the obstacle is, you just have to overcome it.”
Another issue on Robinson’s mind was affordable health care. “I am a big health care guy,” he said. He stressed that affordable health care will allow young people to focus on how they can contribute to society and become successful rather than picking a job because it has better health care benefits. “I don’t want [my kids] to make decisions because of health care; I want them to be thinking of the next big idea,” Robinson said.
Robinson describing growing up with his sister as “as ordinary as you can possibly imagine. We had a dad who worked for the city and a mom who was a homemaker … we both went to public school, we both played outside.”
Robinson and his sister aim to raise their own children with the same values that were present during their own childhood.
“You would be surprised at how well my sister is doing that,” he said. Although the Obama girls live in the White House, they have chores, do their own laundry and are only allowed to watch TV for one hour a day, according to their uncle.
But in the end, the former NBA draftee and Princeton University alumnus was there to stress one thing: involvement. “I’m here just to remind them how important this race is … be in the game. Just be in it.”