Okay, here's a question. What happens when two Harvard-educated lawyers who are making six figure salaries before the age of thirty meet? Who's going to become President and who's going to start a vegetable garden? Hint: Barack Obama does not have to brush up on his trowel skills. In Michelle Obama's memoir "Becoming" it impossible to feel anything but raw admiration for the achievements of the former First Lady. But if there is another emotion that peeks through occasionally while reading "Becoming," it is a limp, depressing realization that when an equally talented woman and man start a relationship together.... it will always be the woman who defers to the wishes of the man.
When Michelle Robinson met Barack Obama in Chicago in the early nineties, she was one of the youngest executives at the law firm where she worked. She later became an outreach director for the University of Chicago Medical Center, a necessary and fulfilling job. But Michelle Obama slowly gave all of that up as her husband's political career took off. Michelle Obama, executive director, became Michelle Obama, Senator Barack Obama's wife. Michelle Obama gently but straightforwardly admits that this was painful sacrifice for her. When Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president (a decision Michelle Obama was not entirely happy with) on a cold Illinois winter morning, Michelle Obama chose the knit caps her daughters would wear for the occasion. "It was a small triumph but it was a triumph nonetheless, and it was mine," She wrote. Michelle Obama had no control over her husband or her life at this point. She had control over her daughters' hats though. Little had changed since 1964 when Michelle Robinson was born and the 21st century. It still hasn't changed much.
Throughout the second half of "Becoming," Michelle Obama describes the incredible hoops she had to jump through in order to keep her public persona within the ridiculous standards dictated by the US media. Michelle Obama referred to how her wearing an outfit exposing her upper arms created an idiotic scandal in conservative media. While I was reading this another stupid "scandal" hit Fox News when Michelle Obama, during her book tour, dropped the word "shit" while discussing the feminist "Lean In" theory during a speech. The dust-up over the former FLOTUS' use of an expletive only serve to grimly outline the pressures she and her husband faced while in the White House.
Michelle Obama never returned to her high end administrative position at the University of Chicago's Medical Center after President Obama's two terms ended. It would be stupid of me, however, to reduce her legacy as First Lady to vegetable gardens and school lunches. There was something truly inspirational about First Lady Michelle Obama that went beyond anything Laura Bush or even Hillary Clinton could achieve. It is an inspiration that is hard for me to put into words. I do know that after I read "Becoming," I lent the book to my coworker. My coworker has a wife with severe bipolar depression. According to him she had not left her bedroom in over a year. This morning he sent me an email. "Thank you so much for the Michelle Obama book. My wife has been leafing through it all morning. It's the first time I've seen her read a book or been interested in anything in months!"
Never underestimate Michelle Robinson Obama.
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