Obama's Brother-In-Law Discusses Candidate

Michelle Obama was introduced Monday night at the Democratic National Convention by her older brother, Craig Robinson, the head basketball coach for Oregon State University. Robinson discusses his first impressions of Barack Obama and strategy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

All this week, our co-host, Michele Norris, is speaking with people who knew Barack Obama before he stepped into the national spotlight. Craig Robinson entered the spotlight himself this week, when he introduced his sister Michelle Obama on Monday night.

Robinson is head basketball coach at Oregon State University, and he frequently plays ball with his brother-in-law. In Denver, Robinson has been staying in the Obama family hotel suites, in a room with a replica of the Pepsi Center podium and teleprompter.

That's where he talked with Michele Norris.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

I'm here with Craig Robinson in the Westin Hotel, in the room where he actually prepared for his speech. The apparatus was still there, the podium and the practice Teleprompters. And since all that equipment is over there, I'm curious to ask how you prepared yourself for the speech. You - when you stood there in this huge, cavernous convention hall, all these people all around, cheering, light flashing, what prepared you for that moment?

CRAIG ROBINSON: You know, Michele, I think that it's sort of years of living and making presentations. What I couldn't prepare for was what you just mentioned, where the numbers of people who were cheering. And I should have been, because every time I do one of these for Michelle or Barack, it's just the reception is grand.

NORRIS: What was your first impression of Barack Obama when your sister brought him home?

ROBINSON: It was - truthfully, it was relief, because as you may or may not know, Michelle is very selective, and was always selective with her boyfriends. So, I rarely got to meet them. Truthfully, the first thing, I was relieved. And then, when I met him, my parents and I were like, this is guy is really nice. He's a smart, funny, laidback, regular kind of guy, with this different background from us completely.

So we were enjoying getting to know him, and then they left and went to the movies. And I literally said to my - my dad literally said to us, it's too bad that guy is not going to be around for a while, you know, because we thought, like all the other boyfriends, he was going by the wayside, you know?

NORRIS: So, early on in the relationship, you wound up playing basketball...

ROBINSON: Right.

NORRIS: ...with Barack Obama.

ROBINSON: With Barack.

NORRIS: And the idea was that you would try to learn a little bit about him...

ROBINSON: Right.

NORRIS: ...by the way he played basketball. How did that happened and what did you learn?

ROBINSON: Well, it happened - you know, my sister had heard my father when we talk about how you could tell a guy's personality by the way he plays. And my sister said, well, Barack is a basketball player. Why don't you take him and play and tell me what you think. And I had already been sold on the guy - I liked him - and I was thinking to myself, oh, great, now I got to take him to play and he's got to turn out to be a jerk.

But he was completely the contrary. I found him to be confident, but not in an overly cocky way. But what really sold me on him was that he didn't pass me the ball all the time to impress me because he was dating my sister. You know, that would have been an easy trap for him to fall into, and he didn't.

NORRIS: Some here at the convention have said the campaign needs to use this opportunity, this spotlight to really focus on John McCain...

ROBINSON: Right.

NORRIS: ...and his weaknesses or his deficits.

ROBINSON: Mm-hmm.

NORRIS: I'm curious to know your thoughts on this as someone who is close to the family, but also as an athlete who knows how to nurture the warrior instinct.

ROBINSON: Yeah.

NORRIS: What do you think the campaign should do? Does Barack Obama need to take it...

ROBINSON: You know, as a strategist, which I consider myself - but I'm not a political strategist - but as a strategist, I understand people's want or their need or their desire to go after the other guy. If my team is a fast breaking team, and I'm trying to slow the ball down, I'm going to lose. So you have to stick with your game, and Barack's game is not being an attack dog. And I understand that people want him to - listen, when I hear some of the things that I hear, I want to attack some folks. But I've watched Barack and Michelle grow through all these challenges, and they've maintained their same personalities, their same game plan. And that's what I preach as a coach. If I had to go in and talk to the staff, I would say, stick with your game plan.

NORRIS: Craig Robinson, great to spend some time with you. Thanks so much.

ROBINSON: Same here. Thanks for having me. This was great.

BLOCK: Craig Robinson is Michelle Obama's brother. He was speaking with our co-host Michele Norris in Denver.

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