After driving over six hours and changing clothes in the car while my husband frantically made his way through New York City traffic, we finally arrived at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Scores of people stood outside in the cold waiting to enter the stadium for the event. An intimate conversation with Michelle Obama was about to happen, live!
As Mrs. Obama walked out onto the stage, I began to cry. My mother would love this, I thought to myself, as she dawned the stage in her beautiful yellow gown and glittery gold boots. I wish every girl, every woman, could be in this conversation. Our country needs this conversation. The conversation about diversity, about community service, and about love.
Military service organizations, like Blue Star Families and the USO, were included in this event—a reminder of how close the former first lady got with our community during her years in the White House.
Mrs. Obama always had a way of connecting with military families, especially military spouses. It first started when she and Dr. Jill Biden decided to focus their platform on the military community through Joining Forces. The duo truly empowered us and took the time to get to know us and our lifestyle, from inviting military spouses to annual appreciation events at the White House to volunteering alongside us.
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker emceed the event and said in her remarks that we miss the grace and the love we received from the Obama family.
Up until this point, Mrs. Obama has been traveling the world on a book tour to talk about her new book “Becoming.” As much as it is her story, it is ours.
“Hope isn’t a passive word, you must actively work for it,” she said. And, she was right. Her message about becoming yourself was something I needed to hear, in that moment. I have given so much of myself, for many years, always hoping that it would make a difference in someone’s life. But now, hearing that, confirmed that I have made a difference. I was actively working to better the lives of those around me.
Part of the day’s conversation included talks about her own volunteer service while living in the White House. She said, “I learned the most about myself when I was giving to others. You can be that light for somebody. I was giving, but I was getting so much more.”
I was moved by this statement. What a powerful collection of words to hear ahead of a new year. The time when Americans take stock of their lives and try to figure out how they can improve their own day-to-day, maybe by improving the lives of others.
Giving back has always been something I’ve been passionate about, both serving on post and off. Hearing the stories of heartache, disparity, and hopelessness is always a reminder of where I came from and how I would do anything for someone not to ever have to experience that.
Living life as FLOTUS
Parker then turned the interview to reflections of life spent in the White House, which gave us all an intimate look at what it’s like for a family raising children inside of that majestic building. Mrs. Obama said they loved to play music loudly. “We had dance parties! We had speakers everywhere, even by the pool,” she explained. She grew up listening to rhythm and blues and jazz music, and she shared that love with her daughters.
“Talent and ability are spread equally throughout the population. Poor kids, rich kids, all races of people, have talent. We held talent shows in the White House’s East Room. The White House was a house for all people,” she said passionately.
She also spoke about the moment it was time to leave those days as First Lady behind, reflecting on the final exit on Inauguration Day.
“It was so hard. I was weeping as soon as I stepped on Air Force One. I finally released it. All the exhaustion was released in that moment.” She cried for about 30 minutes.
On ‘becoming’ Michelle Obama
Almost two years later since starting her family’s new chapter, Mrs. Obama is getting to become herself. She can now be candid about the experience of being the country’s first lady.
Today, the Obama family has chosen to live close to the White House with a more seemingly private life, as much as can be expected for a former president’s family. Mrs. Obama enjoys the regular freedom that she missed while living so publicly. Though, she did say, she still can’t drive, but she can go outside whenever she wants and she also cooks now.
Her story has encouraged me to continue my journey of being a selfless servant and a community leader. I am sure every person in that stadium left with a feeling of empowerment and the courage to become their true selves. I am grateful for Mrs. Obama’s time as First Lady, but I am sure, I will be even more grateful for what’s to come from her being a leader and provider of knowledge in our community.
For a list of book tour dates in 2019. visit BECOMING by Michelle Obama.