I thought that this article by Esther Cepeda for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier was really well done.
You may have heard Michelle Obama’s best-selling book “Becoming” is a well-written and fascinating story of a working-class Chicago girl who overcame obstacles to make it to the White House.
I’m not here to say otherwise — I unabashedly loved this book.
But I did love it critically. Rest assured, the criticism isn’t for Michelle Obama.
It’s for anyone who reads this remarkable story and walks away believing the dreaded cliche about every person of color who broke barriers: Skin pigment, gender and race or ethnicity won’t hamper those who work hard enough and persevere. And they’ll live happily ever after.
Clearly, the former first lady is now living as close to a fairy tale life as any of us can imagine. And there’s no question she worked hard, sacrificed and endured after, for instance, her high school guidance counselor said she didn’t think the girl then known as Michelle Robinson was “Princeton material.”
She certainly persevered after, having graduated from Princeton, she eventually realized being a lawyer was something she’d achieved to make others proud and not because the law inspired her or gave her purpose in life.
But the portion of America that worries about how our young people of modest means, our young immigrants and our children of color will ever close the academic, earnings and life-expectancy gaps with their white peers should not overlook the many privileges Michelle Robinson enjoyed.
For one, though the Robinsons were considered working class, they lived with their great-aunt and uncle in a home that eventually became her mother and father’s. This stability allowed the Robinsons to, as Michelle put it, make the kids the family’s sole focus.
Both her parents worked and, by the time Michelle was in high school, had been “married nearly 20 years. Neither one of them had ever vacationed in Europe. They never took beach trips or went out to dinner. … We were their investment, me and Craig. Everything went into us,” Obama wrote.
Plus, the Robinson kids had all kinds of social capital.
Like preternaturally excellent parents who believed in letting their children manage their own affairs even when they were young. And access to piano lessons and recitals in downtown Chicago auditoriums given by their great-aunt — who, incredibly, long ago sued Northwestern University for discrimination after having been denied a spot in the women’s dorm. There were also several other relatives who had the experience of working in “respectable if not well-paying” professions.
There were trips to visit family in the South as well as to see relatives who had managed to move to the majority-white, well-heeled suburbs of Chicago.
There was great music, laughter, singing and — most important of all — the comfort of intact, nuclear families who lived in stable, safe neighborhoods with similar families, allowing for Michelle and Craig to enjoy being themselves in a cocoon of well-cared-for peers. One of Michelle’s closest childhood friends was the daughter of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, resulting in unparalleled insight into one of the nation’s most influential black leaders.
Sure, Michelle remembers a classmate who once asked her, “How come you talk like a white girl?” But one doesn’t get the idea the Robinson children were oddballs among their peers for aspiring to attend college.
Absolutely none of these details detracts from the indefatigable effort and discipline Michelle dedicated to everything from changing careers to become a hospital executive, realizing the dream of having children, and then managing a family in the insanity that is Chicago, and eventually, national politics.
However, her story isn’t as simplistic as the “poor South Side girl makes good” narrative you’re likely to see from people who want her to be a perfect role model, or “proof” of the possibility of success for other young people of color.
As the Chicago teacher and education writer Ray Salazar put it in a recent essay on the Latino Rebels website, “My disappointment with Michelle Obama’s autobiography [is that] the path she documents cannot be followed in today’s world. Young people can and should find inspiration in her story. … But the truth is the world that created Michelle Obama does not exist today.”
She is a singular emblem of towering success, but her path to it isn’t scalable right now.
That would require black and Latino students to have abundant stable and safe neighborhoods with plentiful jobs for their parents, good public schools and tightly knit communities with the resources and savvy to propel them.
Until that happens, no one should reasonably expect any young person without Robinson-level infrastructure to attain spectacular Obama-level results.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time in 17 years, a woman other than Hillary Clinton has been named by Americans as the woman they admire most. Former first lady Michelle Obama, who finished second to Clinton three times and is currently touring to promote her recently released autobiography, won by a significant margin this year. Oprah Winfrey was second, with Clinton and Melania Trump next.
Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama was the winner among men for the 11th consecutive year, including one year as president-elect, eight as president and two as former president. President Donald Trump ranks second for the fourth year in a row.
Gallup’s annual survey, conducted Dec. 3-12 this year, asks Americans, in an open-ended question, to name the man and woman living anywhere in the world today whom they admire most. Gallup first asked the question in 1946 and has done so every year since, except 1976.
Also among the top 10 most admired women this year is Queen Elizabeth, who placed in the top 10 for a record 50th time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi are the other top 10 finishers this year.
Like the queen of England, Winfrey and Clinton have long histories finishing among the top 10 women, with Winfrey appearing for the 31st time and Clinton for the 27th. Winfrey has never finished first, but has been second on 14 occasions. Clinton has finished first 22 times — more than any other man or woman — including in 1993 and 1994, 1997 through 2000, and 2002 through 2017. Clinton has finished second on three occasions, third once (this year) and fourth once (in 1992).
Most Admired Woman (Percentage)
Michelle Obama 15
Oprah Winfrey 5
Hillary Clinton 4
Melania Trump 4
Queen Elizabeth 2
Angela Merkel 2
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2
Ellen DeGeneres 2
Nikki Haley 1
Malala Yousafzai 1
Nancy Pelosi 1
Michelle visited the Barclay Center last night in New York City to do another stop on her Intimate Conversations which was moderated by actress Sarah Jessica Parker.
I have found some production stills from Michelle’s visit to the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and have added them to our gallery!
Here are two clips from Michelle’s interview last night on the Tonight Show!
I LOVE this video! I have watched it three times already! The look on the people’s faces when they see Michelle is amazing!
Another stop on her tour for Michelle … this time in Dallas, Texas.
Dozens of high school students attending a leadership conference for young women in Dallas had been studying former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir — but none of them expected to meet her Monday afternoon.
The young women were discussing Becoming at the Winspear Opera House, and then she peeked out from behind the curtain.
The students erupted into a chorus of oh-my-Gods. Some started crying.
She popped into the discussion ahead of her presentation to a sold-out American Airlines Center crowd later Monday night, which the students also had a chance to attend.
Ashawnti Black, an 18-year-old student at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
“I was staring at her like, ‘Do you guys see her? Is it just me? Do you guys see her too?'” Black said.
When Obama hugged her, Black said, the former first lady told her she was beautiful and congratulated her for getting into her dream school: Spelman College in Atlanta.
Black said Obama is “everything” to her — second to her mother, of course. Obama has no shame about who she is, and that inspires Black to live shamelessly, too, the teen said.
“She came from South Side Chicago, and I come from Pleasant Grove,” Black said. “I can be whatever I want to be. I am going to change the world. I’m going to be a proud product of my environment.”
After embracing each girl, Obama sat on a couch surrounded by the students.
“So you guys didn’t know I was coming?” she said. “What have you guys been talking about?”
Several students shared with her the part of the book in which a high school adviser told Obama that she wasn’t “Princeton material” resonated with them.
Obama told the girls she overcame that “punch in the gut” by pushing away negative messages.
“It’s a choice in that moment,” Obama told them. “Do you listen to the negative, or do you remember all the positives — all the good things people have said about you?”
She empathized with the students, who are growing up immersed in social media where they can be vulnerable to lots of negative voices.
“There will always be someone who wants to punch you in the stomach because you’re moving a little too high, you’re saying things they don’t agree with,” Obama said. “You have to practice, vigorously, to tune out the negative and eat up the positive.”Read More
Next, Michelle made a visit to San Jose, California. She participated in a Leadership Workshop at Event Trees Community Center and then did another Intimate Conversations.
– Michelle Obama Online > 2018 > December 14 | Leadership Workshop at Event Trees Community Center in San Jose
– Michelle Obama Online > 2018 > December 14 | Intimate Conversations – San Jose