Michelle Obama said that he upcoming memoir, “Becoming,” is a “re-humanization effort” that she hopes will give voice to people who feel voiceless.
The former First Lady made these remarks on Friday as she helped start the American Library Association’s annual conference in New Orleans.
Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, moderated the conversation with the former First Lady. There was a crowd of 8,000 inside the city’s convention center.
Michelle Obama shared quotes from the book, including the experiences that have shaped her, from her childhood. She shared experiences growing up on the South Side of Chicago, her years as an executive and her time at the White House.
Obama told the crowd that much of who she is today results from the influence of her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson.
“My parents had a strong sense of how to parent and taught us at an early age to figure it out,” Obama said, according to the Associated Press. “They let us know, that as children, our opinions mattered. But they encouraged us to contribute to the solution. You could air it out, but you had to be the one to solve whatever it was.”
She said her parents taught her and her brother to have a strong work ethic and the value of doing what you say you’re going to do.
“When I go throughout my day, I often ask myself, ‘Am I doing what I think Marian and Fraser would expect me to do?’” she said.
Obama said her mother’s “no nonsense” energy has always been a part of her life and was welcome at the White House.
“We had butlers and housekeepers at the White House, but my mother would tell them, ’Don’t touch my underwear. I got it,’” she said. The crowd roared in laughter.
“She’s the one who taught my girls how to do laundry. She keeps us humble and focused on what’s important. She’s also my sounding board. She’ll sit and just listen and then ask me, ‘What do you think you should do about that?’”
Obama summed up the whirlwind of the last few years: “I didn’t come into (being first lady) with a blank slate,” she said. “I had big jobs. I went to Princeton. I went to Harvard. I am a lawyer. But as Barack’s ascent got faster and higher, I had to figure out and balance marriage and balance becoming a spouse. I’ve learned that you can have it all, but not all at the same time.”
Obama closed talking about the value of strong friendships, noting she could not have gotten through her time in the White House without a “posse who kept me sane.” And she told the young, single mothers in the audience, “you weren’t meant to parent in isolation.”
“It truly takes a village to raise children. Build your village wherever you are. It will be your salvation and keep you sane,” she said, drawing a roar of applause.