Lawyer, first lady, style icon, author and now a podcaster – is there anything Michelle Obama can’t do?
The former US First Lady debuted her latest project, The Michelle Obama Podcast, on Spotify, where she takes us through the whole arc of her life right from the very beginning – the south of Chicago, and the many relationships that made her what she is today.
Her guest in the first episode is none other than former US President Barack Obama. And, over the next few episodes, we’ll hear from her friends, colleagues and family, including her mother and brother.
From Memoir to Podcast
The Michelle Obama Podcast begins exactly where Becoming ends.
The American documentary film, directed by Nadia Hallgren, about the former First Lady of the United States was released on Netflix earlier in May this year. As the camera follows Obama’s post-White House life, she says, “My life is starting to be mine again. There’s another chapter waiting for me out there.”
And her podcast takes us to this next chapter.
After her husband’s presidency ended, she says she spent a lot of time thinking and talking with friends and family. What that led her to is contemplating on her relationship with her community and the country.
“How do those shape who we are and shape our choices, and shape our reactions?” –this question essentially leads to the Obamas reminiscing their upbringing, Michelle’s close knit nuclear family of four, and Barack’s “slightly crazier” one.
As they talk about their different upbringings, we finally understand the chemistry that we’ve seen between the two on TV, from interviews, and from their public appearances as President and First Lady.
Even through the different routes that they’ve taken from their childhoods to what they wanted from their adult lives, Michelle and Barack Obama’s convergence on their strong relationships with their community is what forms the core of their politics.
Global Icons or Everyday Folks?
The Obamas had eight powerful years during their political stint. They’ve been a part of important summits, conventions, decision-making bodies, and yet, as they move on to talk about the beginning of their careers, it’s all too relatable.
We forget that we’re listening to two global icons talking about their beginnings, it becomes the story of all our lives – all of us who’ve struggled to reconcile between what we want to do and what we have to do.
As she talks about her brief engagement in a law firm after graduating from Princeton University, Michelle says,“So, I didn’t feel like I had the option to just go off and do other things. But I also had a limited vision of what I could be because schools don’t show you the world, they just show you a bunch of careers.”
While Barack was already engaged in community outreach, the self-isolation that the former First Lady felt in the corporate world, eventually led her back to the community values that she had grown up with as she started working for non-profits.
Through the choices that they had to make, be it in an economical capacity or a social capacity, the houses that their families lived in, the part of town that the Black community stuck to – the conversation is anchored to a running commentary on America’s politics.
“You kind of have a sense that this is a cutthroat competition dog eat dog, we’re on our own and constantly nervous about where we’re going to be on this pecking order, that reflects in our politics. How do I protect me? How do I look after us?” Barack says.
But he also tells us that there’s hope yet in the way the youth are willing to rattle structures with their idealism.
The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement compelled for a global reckoning of social and racial injustices. It stormed through the US, and spread across the world even up to India where racial and class inequalities are as bad as America’s, if not worse.
But Michelle reminds us that, “It is bumpy and it is uncomfortable. And that is how change happens. It’s not just one continuous arc.”
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