Last month I finally got around to reading Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming, which was published in 2018. It was amazing (as expected), but also surprisingly heartbreaking. With the current mess in Washington D.C., it is difficult to think about the steps backwards we have taken as a country since the Obamas left the White House in January of 2017.
When Barack and Michelle Obama became POTUS and FLOTUS, I was eight years old. Barely interested in politics, I still remember being in awe of the composed couple and their daughters (who were around my age). I remember watching videos in P.E. of Michelle doing jumping jacks, and staring at a print of Barack in Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster on a classroom wall. I didn’t realize how much I took their presence for granted.
Image Source: Giphy
By high school, I held the Obamas in high esteem. For girls and women everywhere, Michelle Obama had become an icon for her work in advocating for girls’ education worldwide and her fight against child obesity. Barack Obama’s support of marriage equality for LGBTQIA+ people, progress towards more widespread affordable healthcare, withdrawal of troops from the Middle East, and many other actions as former president have also solidified his spot in history books. After all the positive progress the Obamas have made for our country, I think it is safe to say that they won’t just be remembered as the first black family in the White House. They will also be remembered for their work to uplift youth and build a better future.
Often times we forget that the people we admire are real people. Reading Becoming helped bring back the reality of the former presidential family for me. They are not perfect. Michelle writes about leaving her job as a lawyer, tensions in her marriage, struggling with a miscarriage, and trying to balance family and work. She talks about attacks in the media about her looks, femininity, family and morals. She writes about Barack’s struggle to get his ideas put into action with congressional Republicans in determined opposition. The truth is, Michelle Obama isn’t just some famous former First Lady, who appears on Ellen and is printed (looking glamorous) on the cover of magazines. She is a real person, who is doing her best. And so is her husband.
In the end, I think it’s important to remember that the Obamas haven’t really left us. It’s been about three years since they left the White House, but they are still working towards progress. With their organization the Obama Foundation, they run programs like Girls Opportunity Alliance, and work to empower, educate and inspire young people around the world. And if they can have hope at times like this, then so can we.
Image Source: Giphy