På torsdag så jeg Michelle Obama i Oslo Spektrum. Jeg synes hun er en skikkelig kul dame og at komiker Phoebe Robinson som intervjuet henne gjorde en nydelig jobb. Samtalen fløt fritt og uanstrengt, med sterke budskap iblandet mye humor.
Jeg er glad for å kunne viderebringe høydepunktene fra samtalen til dere. Spesielt synes jeg at arbeidet hennes for unge kvinner er så inspirerende. Michelle sa også mye fint og viktig om unge menn, noe som traff blink i guttemammahjertet mitt.
Den tidligere førstedamen fortalte også noen småfrekke historier om da hun møtte Barack, som fikk salen til å brøle av latter.
Jeg har valgt å la utdragene fra samtalen stå på engelsk, av flere grunner: Fordi de er mange og lange og fordi det sjelden blir helt det samme å oversette gode budskap. Derfor vil jeg også anbefale deg å lese den amerikanske originalversjonen «Becoming», som du kan kjøpe her. Hvis du foretrekker å lese norsk, finner du «Min Historie» her.
Jeg tror at dere som kommer på besøk i mitt grønne hus klarer å lese engelsk, og vil med dette også gjerne nå dere som ikke kan lese norsk. Nå gir jeg ordet til selveste Michelle Obama, så vær så god: Les, lær og le!
Becoming an ‘I’ll show you’ kind of person
The fact that our teacher didn’t think enough of us to challenge us was infuriating. I was lucky; my mother was an advocate, she took me out of that school, I skipped a whole year. Later, I started thinking about the kids that didn’t get out, that had the same fire but were stuck in that classroom. Being at the top of my high school year and having a counsellor telling me she didn’t think I was Princeton material. Why? Where did that come from? I was class treasure, I was an honour student and I had a brother that went to Princeton.
Many years later, as I had gone through a career, achieved so much, campaigned for my husband and then had the country tell me I wasn’t good enough to be First Lady. That I was an ape in heels. That I wasn’t smart enough. That turned me into an ”I’ll show you” kind of person. That makes you a 120 per center.
Fortunately for me, it made me work harder. But for many others, it wipes them out.
And that’s what we have to remember. For the kids who were just as smart as me, who don’t have that same flame, that foundation. Those same barriers that young people and immigrants face in the world can cut them down. But they’re just as talented. So that made me a hard worker.
The wind beneath our wings
Coming from a working class background. I knew that my father had to take up a loan to afford Princeton, that he had a disability and got up and got to work every day. That we lived hand to mouth. That we felt rich but we weren’t rich at all; we were rich in spirit. I knew that my parents prioritized us at their own expense, at their own joy and their own happiness. That makes you a 120 per center and an overachiever.
I know that there are people all over this world that feel the pressure to get everything right because you can’t afford to get it wrong. So after going through all that, being First Lady was nothing.
None of us get anywhere without someone being the wind beneath our wings, and I had that in spades. Starting with my parents, my mother. You don’t get through this journey alone, you’re not supposed to. Every new place that I went, I sought out that person that I knew believed in me. Even today, I have mentors, people I talk to. All that encouragement, for me… I owe that back in spades! For all that someone has given me? Oh man, I am giving that back. And here’s the beauty of being a mentor, of being open and giving: You get it back even more.
What it means to be a man
That’s where I would begin; with young men. To help them understand the power of their voice in the world. We need to give our boys a broader spectrum of what it means to be a man. The interesting thing that has happened with women as we have been fighting for a place at the table, is that the definition of what it means to be a woman, has expanded. So now, we can stay at home and love our kids and get rewarded for that. We can work, we can hold a career.
It’s still a struggle, but it’s not unusual for a woman to have a job. We have all these wonderful role models now of beautiful, strong, powerful women out there, who are mothers and girlfriends and lovers, and they do it all. We can be fierce, we can be angry, we can be louder. Still, people try to shoot us down, but we can do it.
Now, just think about what it means to be a man. It feels like the options are limited: You’re either powerful or you’re not. There are men out there who don’t wanna be powerful. They don’t wanna just make money, don’t wanna compete. They wanna love, they wanna nurture, but where is that in the spectrum of what a man can be? And it’s not just society that does that. It is mothers – we do that to our sons. So I conjure whether or not men in this world are really happy if they can only be a handful of things.
Because men are just like women. They have the same emotions, the same diversity of hopes and dreams for themselves.
So I have been thinking and talking more about the spectrum of what our boys can be. That being a loving father, more than a breadwinner, actually has validity and respect all over the world. Not just capturing and winning and competing.
That will affect how men and women treat each other, how girls and boys respect one another. It would create a happier place for boys to grow into.
This overachieving dude
Let me set the stage: I had finished law school and was a first year associate at our firm. He was older than me, I always point that out – I’m the younger person in our relationship. Because he took time off like I should have, he was a first year student in law school. It was weird that a big law firm would hire a student, but as far as I was hearing, he was amaaazing.
No offence, but these were a bunch of white partners who were going gaga over a white kid. He was probably not all that…
And then, his background was different from mine. I came from a town of Robinsons and Smiths. Who names their kid Barack Obama? And then he grew up in Hawaii. Black people didn’t live in Hawaii. So I’m picturing this guy, Barack Obama. No flavor, you women know what I’m talking about?
So I got this visual of this overachieving little Hawaiian dude, and so I have to call him and introduce myself as I’m his advisor. I’m expecting a voice in my head and then I hear Barack Obama’s voice and I’m like oooooh…
And the first day he’s late! Tacky, tacky, tacky. I thought he would be frazzled, but he’s like [deep voice] “I’m so sorry I’m late”. He had flavor, he stood up. He was Barack Obama and I was like “CUTE!” But because I was a box checker, on my list of things to do was not dating my intern. And my initial lack of being impressed allowed us to become friends first.
Respecting strong women
This is what I tell all my young people: It’s not what a kid looks like, even though Barack was cute. It’s not just the resume. What I learned about him through the course of that summer came from how I saw him interact with the world around him. How he didn’t suck up to partners and he respected secretaries. I saw how he treated the women in his life, that he had a mother that was independent and that he respected. A sister that he cherished and a grandmother that was the matriarch of the family.
I saw that he respected strong women, not because of what he said but because of how he lived his life.
So that was the guy I fell in love with, and who taught me not to take myself so seriously. He helped me to start to open up to all the possibilities that I could be. And I love him!
The storm called marriage
Marriage is a storm. He just put us in the eye of the hurricane. I share a lot about marriage because nobody tells you how hard it is. Nobody tells you that when your first child comes, you hate him. For years! Because he’s not as good with the baby, you don’t really trust him. You love your baby, right? Then you think ‘that’s your father? Hmm…’ And I need to sleep, I’m so tired, but that means I have to leave the baby with him. So you’re never really resting, you’re thinking ‘did he fall asleep? Did he roll over on it?! Because he could do that. God, I hate him.’
Young people don’t understand that marriage is hard. Not because you don’t love the person you’re with or because it wasn’t meant to be. Just because there’s that hard period of raising children and paying bills, it’s not glamorous. And then you throw in campaign after campaign after campaign. I was like dude, what’s wrong with you?!
Even in the midst of another presidential run he was like ‘I’d love to have another baby’. I was like, ‘you’re a FOOL! Your political career is your third baby, so enjoy it my friend.’
I just want young people to understand that there can be rough patches, and they can be long. But if you think of life as long and you’re in it forever, having a few years of rough patches is par for the course. So I don’t want young people to give up when it gets hard. Everybody expects things to just be like you see on TV and I don’t want Barack and I to perpetuate that.
Yeah, you see the good times, we’re fist bumping and winning and standing for State dinners. You won’t see me trying to choke him behind that door. We’re not gonna show you that, but it happens to the best of us.
Marriage is a choice. It’s love but it’s also a decision to fight through those hard times. And when you do, if you are fortunate enough to have seen a long happy marriage, you know it’s worth it on the other end.
About bullies and adversity
When you do have that bully, that’s when you learn how to dig deep. If you’re just popular and never had a bump in your life, how do you deal with bumps when they’re coming? Because they’re coming. Life is just full of them, so don’t despair.
Stay the course, know who you are, listen to the good voices. Because we all have doubters, but you make a choice who to listen to.
I think we have to be condescent of our words with kids. I’ve told you how, even for a confident little girl, little bitty half thought-out comments we might make to kids can bury them; crush them. So we have to understand that we gotta show up right in the lives of our kids. That doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect, but we can’t ever tear them down.
You’ve gotta put your ego down and your worries aside. You gotta be strong and clear and clean. I think parenting is the most important thing we can endeavor to do in this world. To bring a life into this world and raise it. So if you make that call, take it seriously. If you put a mark on a child, they remember it.
What I’m becoming next? I’m definitely becoming not president. I think in my journey of becoming, I’m becoming more hopeful. And my hope comes from the next generation. I meet young people, young leaders. They want to do right. They are more honest, they are open, they are caring. They are worried, they are a little afraid, but gosh, they are ready for us to show them a better path.
And we owe it to them, as the grown-ups in the room, to do better by them. To make the hard choices, to make decisions that make us second. And if we do that, they are gonna soar. Not that they’re gonna be perfect, they’re gonna make mistakes just like we did.
I will be working to empower them, to be the wind beneath their wings, because that’s where change happens.
Change doesn’t come from the palace of the White House, it doesn’t come from up high. It really starts with the changes we make with one another in our lives every day.
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