Back from vacation and back to reviewing! Not that there was any chance I wouldn’t read Michelle Obama’s incredibly well-reviewed memoir Becoming, but I do love that Barack Obama listed it as one of his favorite books for 2018 (Listicle!). It’s so good, and while I listened to the audio book and highly recommend that format for the lovely experience that is Michelle Obama’s voice, I also perused the hardback copy (thanks Caitlin_D!) and the pictures included there are great.
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
This memoir hits all the major points of Michelle’s life — her upbringing, her introduction to Barack, her role as a wife and mother and political figure — but infused throughout it all is this incredible sense of wanting to help people. She definitely did not set out to be a president’s wife. But from the start, she wanted to change people’s lives for the better. She ended up with an amazing platform to do that, but she played a role in getting there and used her power and influence to do as much as possible. And all the while, she was raising two daughters in insane circumstances (she gives a great glimpse into the pros and cons of life in the White House — I have decided, nope not for me) and giving them the safest, most normal childhood possible.
“Time, as far as my father was concerned, was a gift you gave to other people.”
This book has been reviewed a LOT of this site, so it’s hard to come up with a new perspective — and while I’d love to just list a bunch of her quotes that I love and end it with “ya’ll, Michelle Obama is the bomb and should be in charge of all things”, that’s probably not the best way to go. So Imma talk about the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school.
“We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.”
This was, hands down, my favorite part of the book. So, in 2009, Michelle Obama gave a speech at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school — it’s an all-girls school in Islington, one of the poorest boroughs of London. “20% of its pupils were the children of refugees or asylum seekers, they spoke a total of 55 different languages and 92% of them were from a black or minority background.” Michelle shows up as a surprise and speaks to the class, about 200 girls, and tells them that she, too, came from a poor inner-city household, and did not grow up privileged or with millions of opportunities presented to her. But she made it to where she is by working her ass off. She encourages these girls, telling them they can accomplish their dreams — but they need to set goals and buckle down and achieve them, despite the many factors against them.
She has probably given similar speeches many times, but what I loved about this is the follow up. In 2011, she met with a handful of them again. And a year later, she invited 12 of the girls to the White House. She made a marked change in their lives — many of them have grown up to be the first in their family to attend college. I know she has touched millions of lives with her other initiatives (the White House garden and the changes she pushed for a healthier lifestyle in children was a great section, too), but the idea that she reached out to this small group and made SUCH a difference in their lives just amazed me. I’m sure many of them will grow up and do the same for the next generation. That, my friends, is CHANGE.