Last night, I watched Michelle Obama's "Becoming" on Netflix. It centers around the time she did her book tour for her memoir of the same name (late 2018 into early 2019), which took place a year after she moved out of the White House. There were so many amazing quotes in this film. I've listed some below and why they stood out to me. If you have a favorite quote yourself, share it in the comments!
When Michelle met with a group of teenage girls, one of them asked her how she feels about transitioning back to her normal life. How would Michelle navigate the leap from First Lady back to the life she was living before? How would she get back on track?
I love this quote because so many of us are currently in a place of transition. Due to the current circumstances, many of us are facing the reality that we cannot do, or don't want to do, what we've been doing. We're also acknowledging that life won't be like it was before, and we have to create a new track. Considering what it would be like to go from the all-consuming role as First Lady onto a completely new, unknown role, inspired me to embrace the unknown and the new with courage and integrity.
In a later group meeting with young black women (Michelle speaks often in the film about her passion for working with the youth), Rayven asked a powerful question:
"I just want to know, how did you, as a black woman, persevere through invisibility?"
One thing I loved about this film was how open Michelle was about racial inequality in this country. It's something she wasn't able to speak so directly to while she was First Lady. And I also love how she empowered each one of those women with her words. She didn't ask them to wait for something outside of them to change. She asked them to change their circumstances within while at the same time acknowledging we are not on an even playing field. This is so important because I see so many people who say the first part - change begins within. But they don't do the second part, which is to validate the affect that oppression and bias has.
"I have high expectations of young people. It's the same expectations my family had of me. My grandfather, Dandy, expected us to be great. But he went through life being underestimated. Growing up, he was a brilliant young man, somebody that loved to read books, to delve into things in a deep and meaningful way. He could have been a professor. He could have been a doctor. But because of race and class, he couldn't get into colleges. He didn't have the money or the resources. And imagine walking around with all this ability and the world telling you, "No. No, you're not good enough. No, you're not ready." Watching people half your intelligence being promoted past you. Watching opportunities slip away, Not because you're not able, but because nobody thinks you deserve it.That caused him a lot of disappointment and anger. That made him push us to be better." - Michelle Obama, Becoming
Of all the quotes in the movie, this one stood out to me the most. It struck me not only because of the anger I would feel if I was Dandy's granddaughter, but because this is still the world we live in. We still promote people based on the fact that they fit an inner ideal of what we think a successful person should look like. Until we tear down all our prejudices, we will continue to all lose out on the brilliance and ingenuity of so many of our fellow citizens.
"I ended up going to Princeton. I was one of a handful of minority students. It was the first time in my life where I stood out like that. I learned that one of my roommates moved out because her mother was horrified that I was black. She felt her daughter was in danger. I wasn't prepared for that." - Michelle Obama, Becoming
This quote also stood out to me above all the others. If someone couldn't live with me because my skin color made them afraid, and I was a young girl, finding my place in the world, I wouldn't know what to do. Can you imagine the impact that would have on a young, developing psyche? And as with the quote above, this is still the reality of the world we live in. No one should have to question their worthiness or their humanity because of the ignorance of another person.
"The energy that's out there is much better than what we see. I wish people didn't feel badly, because this country is good. People are good. People are decent... One of the things we do miss about Barack Obama is that he would get out into the country and he would campaign around hope, and he would fill arenas." - Michelle Obama, Becoming
This was one of the last quotes I noted. I had about six other quotes highlighted, which I cut because I wanted to end with this one. What stands out to me about this quote is the reminder that Obama filled arenas on hope. It's such a powerful reminder because I so often see our current president filling arenas based on anger, division, and bullying. I had forgotten that not long ago, hundreds of thousands of people also filled arenas, and on a message of hope and unity. Those people are still out there. And if, after all she's been through, Michelle can still believe in the goodness of people and this country, then I can too.
I wish I could have put down all the quotes from the film I'd saved. There were so many moments I paused, reflected on her words, and thought about the class and gracefulness she brought to everything she did and does. But the thing that really surprised me was how funny Michelle is. We all know she has a brilliant mind and an inspiring, forward thinking spirit. What I had never seen before was how funny and charismatic she is.
Becoming is available to stream on Netflix. I hope you get a chance to see it also! And now I'm off to download the audio book because I love hearing author's tell me their story in their own voice.
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