Michelle Obama officially released the debut episode of her new podcast and the first guest was none other than her husband, our former president, Barack Obama. The two got together for a lengthy conversation—their first publicized one-on-one talk—all about our relationship to our communities and our country.
“Sometimes this relationship might be a source of fulfillment or meaning or joy,” Michelle says in the episode. “Other times, it might provoke questions that we don’t quite know the answer to. What we’re really talking about is our place in this world, how we feel about it and what we can do with the power we have.” Below, some of the highlights from their conversation:
On how our perception of community affects our politics
The two began by discussing the communities in which they were raised—Michelle in Chicago and Barack in both Indonesia and Hawaii—and how they both grew up with the idea that communities provide structures that help families succeed.
Michelle says to Barack, “One of the reasons I fell in love with you is because you are guided by the principle that we are each other’s brother’s and sister’s keepers, and that’s how I was raised. My values, in terms of what I think my obligation—my personal obligation, Michelle Obama—is that it is not enough that I succeed on my own…if something good happens to you, if you have an advantage, you don’t hoard it. You share it. You reach out. You give back.”
They discussed how costly changes in our country have led to people focusing more intently on their singular success. “You then have all these institutions that used to be support systems shrinking,” Barack says. “So more and more, people start thinking in terms of ‘me.'”
On the legacy they want to leave behind for Sasha and Malia
Toward the end of the episode, Barack shares what he and Michelle most want to give their daughters. He explains, “Maybe one thing everybody can take away from this podcast, relative to the other shows and guests that you are going have on, is just that you can isolate healthy friendships, marriages, parenting that goes on from the communities that they are in. All these relationships are valuable by themselves, but they thrive, they prosper when the whole society is reinforcing these relationships. When you and I think about, ‘What’s the inheritance that we would like to leave Malia and Sasha?’ More than anything, what it would be is that they are living in a country that respects everybody and looks after everybody, celebrates and sees everybody. ‘Cause we know that if we’re not around, [if] those girls are in a society like that, they’ll be fine.”
On the notion of “having it all”
“I think that culturally, we become much more focused on stuff and much less focused on relationships and family,” Barack says in the show. “And part of being an adult, part of being a citizen is you give something up.”
Michelle then shares what she says when she talks to young mothers who ask, “How do I have it all?”
“The motto has become not that you sacrifice, but you should be able to have it all,” she says. “And how do you get it? And if you’re not getting it, then something is wrong. And I always joke, it’s like, that was the opposite of how we were brought up. You were never supposed to have it all. In fact, if you had it all, you were being greedy. Cause if you have it all, that meant that someone didn’t have anything.”
“But that’s what we’re teaching young people,” she continues. “You should have a career, and you should earn a lot of money. You should be fulfilled. You should have your passion. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice that much. You should have it all.”
Their subtle digs at President Trump
While the two refrained from saying President Trump’s name, they did have two subtle jabs at him and his leadership. At one point, Barack says, “The only time [citizens] know about what government doing is when…” Michelle finishes his sentence: “When it doesn’t work, right?” Barack then responds, “We’re getting a good lesson in that right now.”
At another point in the show, Michelle says to Barack, “As you pointed out, as a former president who reads and knows history… Let’s just take moment to pause and think about that.”
On the idealism of young people
Because it wouldn’t be an Obama show without talking about the younger generation, they had several messages for the young people listening to the episode.
“Young people are idealistic as they have ever been,” Barack says. “I think they are more idealistic now than they were when I was growing up. The difference though is that…they feel as if they can channel it outside of governmental structures and outside of politics. The problem is, again, we’re getting a pretty good lesson in this right now, there’s some things we just can’t do by ourselves or even groups of us can do by ourselves…we can’t build infrastructure by ourselves, we can’t deal with a pandemic by ourselves.”
And again, they drive home the importance of working as a collective unit. Michelle says, “It is much more hopeful, it is much more gratifying, much more effective to live this life as a ‘we.’ And I think as young people listen to this, as they are starting to shape their paths, I would really strongly encourage them to think about building lives that are selfless, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but it truly is the better way to live.”
You can listen to their entire conversation, here.