Politics are and have always been a “messy business” However, in the past few years I have found myself becoming even more disillusioned with the US political process. Politicians, in general, seem to be more interested in power and profits than the needs of the people who voted them in to office. Keeping this in mind, when Michelle Obama’s biography popped on my list of reads, I had to ask myself “Did I really want to read it?”
Eventually, curiosity got the best of me. The Obamas were definitely interesting. They did not come from a long line of politicians. After only three years as a senator in Washington DC, the couple mounted a successful presidential campaign that was impressive and unprecedented becoming our first African American President and First Lady. I was intrigued about their diverse backgrounds and educational and professional accomplishments. If I’m honest, I mostly wanted into a bird’s eye view into family life in the White House and how their family adapted to the unbelievable stresses and exhilarating pace of running our country.
Not knowing much else, I decide to dive in. It was far more interesting and compelling than I had thought.
I believe any women will relate to Michelle Obama. This book is not only a window into Michelle Obama’s life but the common struggles of so many women. One of the reoccurring themes were of her juggling, finding and at times postponing her own dreams and ambitions while balancing her commitment to motherhood and to her husband. The book does not necessarily provide solutions for this dilemma but it reminds you that women need other women in the work field and in their churches and neighborhoods to mentor them and create unique solutions to combine family and career. Many of her experiences abroad reminded me of the continued need of educational opportunities for girls across the globe and our need to be responsible in making those opportunities available so all her girls have the same opportunities for growth.
Another strong theme that her book evoked was how far we still are from racial equality in the United States. Her family of origin’s experience with racism and discrimination were sobering and disturbing. She related heart wrenching incidents that occurred during President Obama’s term of presidency where black youth were killed only because they lived in neighborhoods that were unsafe and violence prone. I was reminded that our prisons overflow with black men, some whom I believe are unjustly there. Her account of her friendship as a teen with Jesse Jackson’s daughter showed me that in many ways her life experiences prepared her well to be our First Lady.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It made me think about difficult subjects like racism, gun control, and politics. Along with these serious themes, I felt her love for her family and a commonality with her as a mother and a daughter. And as far as that bird’s eye view of the White House goes ? I thrilled at her description of having a personal chef at any hour of the night but balked at the thought of Secret Service men always lurking behind me. I loved her account of attempting to ditch her agents for a chance to be outside with the public one evening. Yes, there is privilege for the first family but with that privilege comes overwhelming responsibility. I mean, seriously how many of us could go 8 years without a shopping spree alone at Target?