Last Friday Ms Soapbox and her friend spent an intimate evening with Michelle Obama.
True, we were packed into the Stampede Corral with 6000 other people, but as soon as Michelle Obama stepped on to the stage, we were captivated by her intelligence, kindness, and wit.
Michelle told us about growing up in a blue collar family on the south side of Chicago, attending public school, Princeton and Harvard law school, and then meeting Barack at the law firm where they both worked. She tried to fix Barack up with her single friends. Apparently, she liked Barack as a friend but wasn’t “feeling him at first”. Barack persisted, and the rest is history. (It really is history, there’s a plaque at Baskin Robbins commemorating their first kiss–much to the horror of their children).
She described the groundswell of support that propelled Barack from the Illinois senate to the Democratic nomination, and the speed-of-light transition that started on Nov 3 when her “baby-faced big eared” husband became President Elect, until Jan 20 when he was sworn in as President of the United States.
Michelle talked about Inauguration Day (there was a huge crowd) and how she looked at her little girls, aged 7 and 10, and thought, it’s very cold, they should be wearing hats. She talked about the stress of pulling the girls out of school in Chicago so they could start at their new schools on January 1st and then watching them go off to school in a three-car motorcade under the protection of men with guns.
Michelle gave full credit to her mother who accompanied the Obamas to the White House but never succumbed to the White House “hooey”.
Michelle could have spent the entire evening reeling off her long list of accomplishments as First Lady but chose instead to take us behind the scenes at the White House.
She was determined to make the White House a home. She talked about walking into broom closets when trying to leave a room (the White House has many doors) and trying to teach Sunny the dog that the Lincoln bedroom wasn’t actually “outside” in the “I need to go outside” sense.
She said the West Wing could be a “dark place” where somber people spoke in hushed tones, but the East Wing was lively, filled with children, dogs, laughter, and music. It was a venue for arts and culture, poetry slams and Paul McCartney. It brought balance to the White House because normalcy is important, it’s not good for the country to be in a constant state of chaos.
Michelle talked about Parker Curry, the little girl who was mesmerized by Michelle’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery. She said kids don’t see enough people who look like them. She hoped Parker was dreaming of being like Michelle one day but thought it was equally possible the little girl was simply blown away by size of the painting which Michelle said was “pretty big”.
Michelle and Barack see themselves as role models for all children. They choose their words carefully and conduct themselves appropriately because “children watch us” and “we show them who they can be in the world”.
A Woman President
When asked whether the US would ever elect a woman president, Michelle replied there would be a woman president when American women were ready for a woman president. Hillary Clinton was an extremely qualified candidate, but women chose the alternative because Hillary wasn’t perfect. Women need to believe they’re worthy to be president before they’ll cast a vote for another woman running for the position.
Michelle Obama shared many insights over the course of the evening including:
- Women can have it all if they take it in turn, they can’t have it all at once; and developing a core group of friends who support each other is crucial for sanity.
- Young women are “still bottled up”. They choke their own voices and hold themselves back, they need to be as free as men, this includes the freedom to fail.
- Men can’t have it both ways. They can’t boast about being good to their wives and daughters and then go to the office knowing women are paid less then men. Men need to stand up for women.
- Adversity is a constant in life. We need to be resilient and protect ourselves by eliminating negative people from our lives and replacing them with positive people who add value.
- Change takes time. We plant seeds for the future and mustn’t stop because we don’t see immediate results.
Michelle Obama closed the evening with a message for young people: she said we believe in your resilience, persistence, honesty, and inclusion, we’re counting on you and will support you all the way.
The auditorium exploded in applause. We joined the young woman in the pussy hat to our left and the young woman in the ripped jeans to our right to give Michelle Obama a standing ovation.
Michelle said when the world pushes young people, they push back.
This is good.
What an uplifting message! I am frankly tired of the divisive, nasty stuff we see more and more of. There is indeed, hope, and it lives with our younger generation who took to the streets around the world this weekend. Please don’t stop or back off…society needs to change and you are on the right track.
Roy, from what I’ve read it sounds like #MarchForOurLives has given the gun control movement the impetus it needs. These young people are registering to vote in the 2018 midterm elections and they will vote against anyone who receives funding from the NRA. These kids are smart.
The woman is simply remarkable in every possible way – a luminous inspiration and of course a symbol of hope and determination for young people. Incredibly grounded, yet, possessing the grace and aura of what great leaders are about – leading by example and from below, in a manner of speaking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about her. – LCA
I agree Leo. I did a little research about Michelle when I wrote this post, apparently some of her high school teachers tried to discourage her from applying to Princeton, they said she was setting her sights too high and her roommate’s mother tried to get her daughter moved when she discovered Michelle would be her roommate. Wouldn’t you love to hear what they have to say about Michelle now?
Hard to believe that this is the country that throughout the late 80s and 90s was pointing the finger to South Africa apartheid. Even today in some areas of the US it is worse that it use to be in South Africa.
Carlos, the issue of racism is one no one wants to acknowledge. A recent episode of The Current said there have been 230 police shootings in the US already this year. Last year the police shot 987 people, 68 of them were unarmed and large proportion of those were black men. We think we’re immune to this in Canada but we’re not. Author Robyn Maynard said a recent Ontario study found black people were 10 times more likely to be shot by the police than white people. Then Tom Stamatakis, the President of the Canadian Police Association, came on and said Canada was nothing like the US and there was no evidence to support systemic bias against any group based on ethnicity or race or any other factor in the police force. Clearly his “evidence” isn’t the same evidence Maynard was referring to.
My daughter and I saw her in Edmonton the same day. What an uplifting and inspiring experience it was. All politicians could learn from “Michelle and Barack see themselves as role models for all children. They choose their words carefully and conduct themselves appropriately because “children watch us” and “we show them who they can be in the world”.”
Jeri, your description of the event (uplifting and inspiring) is bang on. What I didn’t expect was Michelle Obama’s self deprecating sense of humour. She told a funny story about telling her mom 6000 people were coming to see her in Calgary and her Mom saying: “You? Why you?” Michelle replied: “Yeah Mom, I’m Michelle Obama!”. Obviously that didn’t impress her Mom one bit!
Thanks for a practical review of what I’m sure was a great presentation. Very informative. Kinda like a speech in Edmonton recently by Marie Heinen. It helps to counteract the absolutely crazy cesspool drama that is Trump/Kenney World. Michelle Obama is a most accomplished person and I’m sure we will hear more from her in the future.
Douglas, I’m with you on this, I really hope we’ll be hearing more from Michelle Obama. Listening to her talk about life in the White House underlined just what a wacko leader Trump turned out to be. If the West Wing was sometimes a “dark place” under Obama, it must be a “crazy cesspool” under Trump.
Excellent piece on your “Evening With Michelle Obama” Ms Soapbox. Nice recap!
With Michelle Obama as an awe-inspiring role model you have to wonder: Is she passing the torch to the articulate and passionate young women who marched and spoke at Saturday’s “March of Our Lives” rally in Washington D.C. and other venues, or is she setting the table for a run at the White House or Congress? Her recent appearances across the country, both in the US and Canada, may just be inspirational messages of hope to keep women motivated to ensure they continue to vote and seek elected office. Whatever her end game, she is a beacon of hope for all.
Thanks J.E. Michelle was very inspiring. She wants young people to get engaged and stay engaged notwithstanding the setbacks. She said sometimes young people don’t realize that those who’ve gone before faced their share of adversity (she’s been slammed as an unpatriotic “angry Black woman” who didn’t love her country; Barack was accused of not being born in the USA). She wanted young people to know that everyone deals with failure and we have to address it and move on. It reminded me of Omar Khadr’s lawyer who said sometimes all you can do try again tomorrow.
Thank you, Susan! So very pleased to hear your account of an experience I knew would be phenomenal.
The youth et al that gathered on the weekend in the States are a tangible testament to the effect of principled people in our midst and the ultimate influence of principled leaders and educators. Michelle and Barack Obama are at the head of that line!! The youth have the vision and the courage to stand up.
Sorry I missed Michelle but am looking forward to stories from many friends.
Jane it’s incredible to read the stories about the young people (including those who survived Sandy Hook), who participated in the March For Our Lives. They showed remarkable strength. Michelle talked about kids and resilience: she said “kids are a reminder of what we have to do, they need to feel they can conquer the world.” This is a huge challenge when they’ve got the NRA and GOP politicians attacking them for standing up for the right not to be slaughtered. Unbelievable!
I wonder if this subject came up during the vevning’s discourse?
Thank you for linking to a very informative article ‘ronmac.’ I’m sure Mrs. Obama is a warm and wonderful person but what does that have to do with the failures of her husband’s administration? It is the failures of liberals, like Clinton and Obama in the US, or Notley and Trudeau here in Canada to bring real change that have and will pave the way for authoritians like Trump, Ford, and Kenney.
Kang, you make an interesting point about liberals failing to bring about real change. Many books have been written about this. They describe how the liberals changed their focus to make themselves more attractive to corporate donors and left the working class behind, and how super rich conservatives throw big money into conservative non-profits, and think tanks to legitimize their message, and communications experts who manipulate data on social media and frame issues in ways that inflame our basest instincts. That’s not to say liberals aren’t engaged in the same behaviour, but I worry that as we see more and more of this on the “left” and the “right”, people will simply give up in disgust, which as you say paves the way for authoritians like Trump, Ford and Kenney.
Ronmac, Michelle Obama did not address her husband’s decision to replace “boots on the ground” with remote controlled warfare (which academics say includes drones, special ops, and contractors like Halliburton. These academics say remote controlled warfare has reduced transparency and accountability. It’s harder for Congress to get information, including budget info, on warfare carried on in the name of the USA by special ops forces and contractors. The morality of using drones in warfare is also a huge issue and the actions of contractors are governed by contract, not by the “rules of war” or policy. Sadly, this isn’t just an American issue, the UK, France and other countries are as active in this area as the US. The only ray of hope in all this (if you can call it that) comes from academics who say remote controlled warfare is so ineffective at creating regime change (or at least in the direction the US, et al want), that countries will revert back to “boots on the ground” in another decade or two. It’s demoralizing just to read this stuff.
“Michelle and Barack see themselves as role models for all children. They choose their words carefully and conduct themselves appropriately because ‘children watch us’ and ‘we show them who they can be in the world’.”
Unless, of course, their father is a terrorist, in which case they’re simply collateral damage in a drone strike.
Farron, you make a legitimate point which goes back to my earlier comment above about the morality of drone strikes and remote controlled warfare in general.
It’s unfortunate that Barack Obama was such an ineffectual President. Even Donald Trump is doing better…
Harce, Barack Obama didn’t accomplish what he set out to do, in good part because he was saddled with a Republican Congress who refused to cooperate with him on anything. Even the moderate Republicans were afraid to support Obama on legislation that should have been a bi-partisan slam dunk because the Tea Party (funded by big money) would run their own candidate against the incumbent. See Jane Mayer’s book called Dark Money which describes the impact big money has had on the US political process since the formation of the John Birch society.
Civility and intelligence seems like such far away concepts now. Who societies chose to govern them is also a reflection upon them. Choosing a crass, vulgar leader who appeals the worst instincts of the country he leads is not the sign of a great power, it is a sign of a country in decline, losing the respect of the rest of the world and lashing out.
Of course that is absolutely correct. The US has been in decline for a long time and the problem to me is that not even their so famous ‘checks and balances’ system can stop it because money has infiltrated their system to the point of what a call ‘Gang Creation’ level which is what took over countries in South America and from which is horribly difficult to get out. Examples are Colombia, Peru and now Brazil is definitely showing very clear signs that government no longer matters.
Despite the fact that Americans and Canadians do not believe that possible here, it is actually happening even in Canada. We have a slower pace cancer but it is visible. Democracy, which was never terribly democratic but masked by boom times, is slowly eroding right in front of our eyes.
Trudeau just like all the ones before him still have not understood the damage they are doing with their status quo attitudes.
As far as Michelle Obama, I have some respect for her of course. She seems definitely a smart person but like Ronmac mentions they all have their hands pretty full of violence and blood. If their daughters are so important to them what makes them think other peoples daughters do not matter as much.
Susan you seem to imply on your response to Ronmac that it is a contract issue rather than a war issue but I fully disagree. The times when governments kill and justify it with contracts and false morality are over. The US is a violent nation and Michele Obama for sure knows what Obama has ordered and this attitude of just being the wife of a Mafia boss and just enjoy the ritzy lifestyle and admit that is the price of the presidency is no longer something I accept. Most people do but I confess to me that is just garbage. I am sorry if this sounds radical to you but I am done with false politics and false justifications that continues to spread violence and horror around the world. One just has to have the guts and go to Syria for ONE day to feel the horror that war really is. Just discussing it and watching others live through it is almost a crime in itself.
Anyway my modest opinion
Carlos, I didn’t mean to imply that when governments outsource warfare to mercenaries, this absolves them of responsibility or blame, what I’ve learned is that once these governments do this, they’re happy to argue their relationship is governed by the contract and nothing else. This is an Immoral stance. Some international associations are trying to create a code of conduct for contract armies, but compliance with the code is voluntary and it’s signed by the contract army company, not the country that hires them so it’s pretty useless. The whole thing is a big mess which is why I can’t understand how a country that wages war and destroys a country can refuse to accept the refuges they’re created in the process.
David, your comment is spot on. What I can’t figure out is why people think a crass, vulgar leader will govern better than the “elites”. The Trumps and Fords believe the role of government is to clear out anything that stands in the way of business. That makes these guys rich but doesn’t do much for the people who have to work for them with little or no ability to bargain for good wages and good work conditions, or the community that gets to clean up their messes after the companies bail.
Susan I look at this in a different way. The so called “elites” are nothing else than a political class that chose not to take their responsibilities seriously. Their role is represent Canadians not corporations, not their personal interests. For decades they have ignored citizens and have done pretty much what they very well want. They have become the spokespersons of anything and everything except their constituents. They have basically created a corrupt system that is anything but democratic. They have also done the best they can to avoid any democratic renewals. So it is not surprising that people just chose something else. A so called ‘elite’ politician would continue the system erosion anyway so choosing Trump does not solve anything but it certainly gives them a bit of a lesson. I am not sure it will work but if not it will help the system to implode or become more like China or Russia. So far young or old, they are all the same. Trudeau came in with all the slogans but he himself is as status quo as they come. In fact he right now is below Harper’s level at the same time of his term. Pretty appalling indeed but not surprising. People read him through and through. Not that difficult.
I think that many people do not want to interpret this issue the way some of us do but it is to me quite obvious. I would not vote for Trump if I was in the US but I much less would vote for Hillary Clinton.