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Excerpts From ‘Becoming’ By Michelle Obama
Growing up, I had always seen Michelle Obama as a great woman, a human right activist and a wonderful wife. I could have said she’s my role model but then, I actually don’t believe in the concept of making other people my model. One thing for sure though, she’s an individual to learn a lot from which I have in the book ‘becoming’ and hoping to continuously learn from her out of the context of the book.
If I ever had a great respect for Michelle Obama’s strength of character, after reading her book ‘becoming’, my respect for her increased. She wrote the book excellently; in such a way that made me feel I was actually in the 1960’s growing up with her. I felt her pain, I felt her joy and excitement, also, I felt the transformation phase of her life.
From her story, I could deduce she grew up from an average low class family as she described how her family shared a duplex apartment with the owner of the house―her great-aunt Robbie. She grew up learning how to react and give awesome comebacks to those deserving of it. In the Nigerian English language, we call such act a ‘sharp mouth’. Michelle is definitely a funny, affable and no nonsense woman. Michelle grew up as one who wanted to know the Why’s for an action or speech, She grew up with a recognizable voice, courtesy of her parents, she was able to learn when to tone it down for the act of being courteous. In her early years as a child, she would walk up to her mum and disclose events that were pleasant and not pleasant to her. One of such events was her second grade class where she realized she wasn’t well tutored by her class teacher and was close to falling into the category of ‘bad kids’. Michelle did state in her book her camaraderie as a kid. She wasn’t exactly as sociable as her brother, Craig. She often had issues interacting with her mates and in some cases felt different from her mate. In some way, she sort of compared the material things she had and had grown accustomed to in her family as to those owned by other black families such as the Gore sisters. Michelle also established in her book the fact that she wasn’t the smartest girl in her class and overtime grew to be one of the best courtesy of being tutored by her mum prior to the start of her basic schooling. She also learnt she was the type that had to work extra hard to meet the set standards she had placed for herself; such scenario as declaring to her basic school teacher that she had gotten the right pronunciation of ‘White’ earning her a star hung around her neck which she had previously not been qualified to get.
Michelle is no doubt a typical example of ‘against all odds, I will rise’.
Points on Becoming
In ‘becoming’ I learnt to see the importance of little things, events that are more likely to be termed insignificant and the concept of being you
•Upbringing: Michelle clearly stated how she was brought up; how she was allowed to use her voice, how she was trained to be disciplined (for instance; Michelle and her brother did not have a curfew time, but they had chosen the time they knew they ought to be home, they knew what was not credible to do because they had been trained to have integrity, they just couldn’t do things in a certain way that seemed great to their generation. They were treated like adults that were entitled to their decision making process.
•Parental Involvement in Academic Activities: This point ordinarily ought to be merged to the point above but for specific detailing, it has to be a stand alone point. Parental involvement in academic activities is crucial. Michelle’s mother was highly involved in her kids education. She ensured she formed a ‘shoulder to cry on’ for her kids. When Michelle complained about her second grade teacher, her mother went into action by ensuring her child and other smart kids were taken away from that said class. She―her mother also knew how to respond to her children’s whines or distress moments. She knew not to indulge them yet she made sure to take note of whatever they had said in an encouraging tone to enable the children come back to her subsequently.
•Right Motivation: Although, Michelle’s parents greatly contributed to Michelle’s positive drive but she also had a lot of work done on herself. Her first school experience and her reaction to it was a drive to be amongst the first steady five students in her class. The mindset gave her the platform to go to a school of the best of the best students in the state of Chicago called Whitney Young High School. Her spirit of determination and excellence did not wither despite the long distance between her home and school which she had to travel every day.
•Self-Affirmation: It would surprise you the number of people who are excellent and still doubt themselves. Michelle had doubts especially when she saw herself in a new terrain. At Whitney Young she doubted her capabilities. She had stated to herself that she was possibly the best of the worse in a gathering of the best of the best at Whitney Young. She would ask herself ‘am I good enough?’ she asked herself that question also during the period her husband ran for presidency the first and second time.
•Pursuit of Fulfillment: Michelle sure revealed in her book a phase in her life, when she asked herself why she had gone through Princeton and Harvard and ended up studying law. She soon realized just after the death of her friend Suzanne(whom lived each moment enjoying her life and eventually died of Cancer) what living was really about. She defined it to be finding fulfillment and joy in what one does. At some point in her career as a law practitioner, she was torn between leaving a job that paid her quite enough to sustain her to pay her education loan and getting a job she presumed she loves that pays half and lesser than what she was already earning. She eventually made a choice after a while that seemed like she had gotten exactly what she wanted.
•Devotion and Sacrifice: Michelle’s Dad showed a lot of Integrity, selflessness and devotion to his job and family despite being crippled. Michelle’s mum Maria was also an exceptional mum sacrificing her time and eventually returning to working after Michelle and Craig had grown so as to reduce the expenses. Michelle’s parents no doubt sacrificed greatly to the education of their kids. Hiving them a platform to voice out to the world telling their story to inspire others.
•Getting the Right Partner: ‘Right partner’ isn’t inscribed on the head of anyone. Hence, getting to know Barrack was important in the section of ‘becoming us’. She met him as a summer intern and was given the responsibility to cater for his welfare. She got to know him and realized she loved his personality. She was able to identify his strengths and flaws. Barrack wasn’t from a home of affluence he was just a very smart chap that seemed to be positive. She felt she could build her world around him as he had great potentials. They obviously have love, understanding and respect as the back bone of their relationship
•The Long Wait: For six (6) years, there was a long wait for offspring. This part humbled me. It just showed that at every point in time in life there would definitely be a phase of long waits or disappointments but the spirit to keep moving and being positive is highly required at such periods.
•The Season of Perseverance: Michelle and Barrack did have issues. There came a point in their lives when they had to visit a marriage counselor to help iron out their issues. Michelle felt Barrack was not having quality time with her and the kids and would rather go workout at the gym. She painted scenarios where they had to wait up for Barrack to be back to peck the sleepy girls goodnight and then have dinner with her. She felt he could sacrifice his gym time to be with the family and also give an exact time he would be home. Subsequently, Michelle realized to resolve the issues they were having, setting timelines would be her calling the shots hence, making Barrack the one having to rush home to do certain things he wanted with his family. She also became an advocate of physical fitness; working out which relieved her of the stress of joggling between parenting and her work life.
•The Transformation Phase: Going from community work to Senatorial and then to the Presidency is indeed a transformation. Michelle’s life changed from an average Chicago woman joggling between childcare and part-time job to FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) working endlessly with her husband campaigning for him. She stated her many down times of public shaming of how she doubted herself and would feel down by the shameful comments by a lot of people. She made explicit how she grew from the phase of being publicly embarrassed and harnessing her strengths to identifying what she could do as a First lady. She spoke about her “Let’s move” agriculture project and how it drastically reduced the level of child obesity. Out of nothing and the expectation to be mute after several bashful speeches of questioning if she was an asset or liability, she rose and gave a definition to a job that required no major action. She took it upon herself to fight for the girl child education and empowerment which her and her husband are currently spearheading.
•The Power of Developing Oneself: I learnt from Michelle Obama’s story the power of developing oneself. Barrack Obama’s Exceptional speech in 2004 made him known and gave the platform to become the president. Funny how, I actually never heard the full speech of Obama but I could recall the event and the outfits worn by the newly elected and his family. I was barely a teenager when he became the president but I recall vividly how we all stood in the sitting room watching Obama make his victory speech as history had been made. I must confess after reading the book ‘becoming’ I went back on Obama’s speeches as well as Michelle Obama’s and I discovered a number of things I will like to improve in my self. Also, I had to browse about the couple online just to know more about the people I had lived with in my mind for the period I read the book.
I was undoubtedly taken back to the days of Barrack Obama’s rein as the President, living in the story written by Michelle and enjoying every part of her becoming. The story is indeed beautiful and a reminder of being you, pursuing your dreams and not letting the world define you.
From the Desk of Mary Elebijo
Excerpts from ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama
Image Credit: Official Image of Becoming and Google Images