I hope everyone who celebrates had a great Christmas, and that no matter what you holiday you enjoy at the end of the year, your days are filled with joy, peace and light.
As we head into 2019, I just saw that Michelle and Barak Obama were voted the most admired man and woman in America!
Well, that’s a perfect headline for this week’s post, because I recently listened to the audio version of Michelle Obama’s book, and it was terrific. Obama wrote the book and did the audio, too, so listening to it is like an additional little hug from the admirable woman herself. (Kirkus also loved the book, and gave it a starred review.)
A friend also gave me the paper copy for Christmas, and I am so grateful, because it’s a book I’ll be keeping on my shelf for good.
I am a liberal-leaning person, but I grew up in Texas and still have a few friends in my Facebook feed who run the gamut from conservative-leaning to hard right wing. Over the past decade I’ve seen plenty of attacks on liberals, Democrats, and progressives, many taking particular aim at the former President. But anyone who doesn’t admire the Obamas, in my opinion, isn’t being honest about their own biases and blind-spots.
Michelle Obama hails from Chicago’s Southside, and her book shines with authenticity. I especially love how honest she is about both the blessings and drawbacks of being the First Lady, and how important it was to her to have some positive impact on the children—and especially the girls—of America and around the world.
Obama talks about her childhood, her family, her neighborhood. About her elementary and high schools, and how important it was that the students and residents had hope—an elemental lesson she took with her throughout her life, and ultimately tried to instill in a new generation of children she had the opportunity to encourage and inspire through her travels and conversations with people around the world.
She mentions the moment when a school counselor told her she wasn’t sure she was “Princeton material”—making her feel small and not good enough, though, to Obama’s credit, she didn’t let the experience dim her dream of going there.
It’s hard to be a person of hope and optimism when your efforts are mocked or met with derision, either casual or calculated. Even harder, I expect, when racism tinges so many of the attacks and criticisms that come at you.
Michelle Obama has risen above it all, and her book, BECOMING, is a lovely, heartfelt tribute to her journey, embracing the good, the bad, the uncertainty, and the joy. Considering Obama is one of the most popular First Ladies in history, it’s hardly surprising that the book quickly became the year’s bestselling book. Better yet, it’s a rich and inspiring look at one woman’s unexpected rise to the position of First Lady from humble beginnings, encouraged by her family’s adamant faith in education, personal responsibility, and, yes, hope. No matter what, she was buoyed by the belief that there is something better out there, and that you’re allowed to reach for it; that it is almost your responsibility to take advantage of opportunities when they come to you, and that part of your job is to pay it forward when you can.
Mixed in with those elements are many other relatable aspects of her story, such as the heartbreak of infertility and the problematic imbalances women face every day. These issues are present whether we are in our own homes or in the White House (in the nebulously outlined role of First Lady), and they are especially true in our own heads, with the ever-present question of “Am I good enough?” knocking around.
Obama is good enough, has always been good enough, and in the end, overcame racism, ferocious sniping and mean-spiritedness from the Conservative press, and won the day (and the decade) with her conscious positivity and innate grace.
I’d recommend this book to everyone. We could all learn a little something from this amazing woman, and her illuminating book.
But only if we decide we want to.
Happy New Year, friends. Here’s to another year, and a blank slate full of opportunity and potential. May we all choose paths that bring us even closer to becoming the best version of ourselves we can be.