Former First Lady Michelle Obama has one big question for all of us: “Who are you becoming?”
Last Sunday, on March 24, about 18,000 people packed the Tacoma Dome to hear what Obama had to say. Obama is on an international book tour to promote her memoir, “Becoming.” People were overheard saying that no one else in America can command such a showing for a book tour.
Notably, Obama spent the night speaking to and for a unified American public and a cursory glance around the Tacoma Dome showed that the bulk of her Seattle audience were white women. The second largest showing were Black women, then Asian women. Men also were a significant presence, though they generally accompanied women.
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who interviewed Obama for nearly two hours, said that it was the biggest showing thus far on a tour of 21 stops. (Obama was originally slated to come to Seattle in February, but due to the snow storm last month, her event was postponed until last Sunday.)
Obama’s memoir — and Obama’s talk at the Tacoma Dome — covers Obama’s adolescence in Chicago as the daughter of hardworking, no-nonsense parents, to her being a young up-and-coming Harvard-educated lawyer, to the meeting of her husband, Barack Obama. She stated that the White House years don’t get as much coverage in the book as one would think, because the book is really about all of the hard work and the long journey it took for her to arrive at her current incarnation.
This, she stated, is the important lesson to take away from her memoir.
Obama opened up the night by jokingly saying, “I miss us, too, y’all,” to loud cheering. She was alluding to the current presidency and its damaging divisiveness.
Her message of the night was that there is no reason to fear one another. She promoted getting to know neighbors and finding ways to give back to the community and society. She talked about how important it is for her and her family to seek out and live with purpose and how they feel richer for it. She also talked about her gradual, but inevitable, awakening to social consciousness — pushed along by her husband.
Even though Obama spent some time talking about the pressures of being part of the first Black family in the White House, Obama was clear that her message was for all American citizens. She said that she has traveled throughout the country many times, and what she has found is that most men, including white men, are like her father — hard working men who just want to provide for their families through honest means. She talked more about our sameness, rather than our differences.
But perhaps most important of all, she preached for bravery in authenticity. “We have to be brave enough to find our story — and own it,” she said. “We have to practice, every day, who we want to be.”
Obama’s message of empowerment is pivotal now, more than ever. It’s a message that pleads for us to lead with hope and unity, rather than fear, which is what so many of us have been conditioned to lead with. It’s also a message that puts the solution in our hands, rather than telling us to give power over to entities and political leaders who don’t know or empathize with all of our different journeys.