Charles Dharapak/AP
The Monitor can exclusively report that Malia Obama (l.) likes eggs Benedict. We're not sure about that guy on the right.

How much does Malia Obama tip? A brush with American royalty.

It's Washington, so sometimes your barista daughter just might wait on the president's daughter. But it's still a hoot, and Malia Obama seemed, well, normal.

My daughter’s voice was breathless on the other end of the phone: “I just waited on Malia Obama!”

How cool! How Washington! I thought.

What did Malia eat? What did she wear? Who was she with? And most important of all, how much did she tip? My questions spilled forth, as I cooled my heels in the White House briefing room waiting for a briefing that was eventually postponed.

My daughter, Becca, has been waiting tables at Open City café for a few weeks before heading back to college, and regularly encounters interesting people. The restaurant is in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington, well situated between two major hotels, and gets people from all over the world. But Malia Obama, a local girl who goes to Sidwell Friends School nearby, is her coolest customer yet.

So here’s the skinny: Malia had frozen chai and eggs Benedict. She wore flip-flops, cutoff jean shorts, and a Georgetown T-shirt. She was with two girlfriends – and it was one of her friends who picked up the check. The tip: $8 on a $45 bill.

“Not so bad considering they’re teens!” said Becca, herself just a few years older than her customers.

The girls sat inside, while the Secret Service detail sat outside on the patio keeping watch.

“I don’t think she wanted them close by,” Becca surmised.

So what’s Malia like in person? Shy? Outgoing? Becca says she seemed “perfectly normal, your average teenager.” Though very tall. And the president’s daughter.

This correspondent once stood in line behind Chelsea Clinton at a Starbucks near Sidwell back in the 1990s. She ordered a mocha, I think. But I didn't interact with her. Despite my profession, I'm not big on bothering famous people, especially when they are famous only because of their parents. So I'm proud of my daughter for interacting with D.C.'s most famous 16-year-old without panicking or spilling frozen chai on her lap.

And I'm glad to know that Malia seems to be a normal teenager, despite growing up in a fishbowl. She and her friends appear to have been well trained. Because in Washington, you never know when your waitress is going to be the daughter of a White House correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to How much does Malia Obama tip? A brush with American royalty.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today