Back in September, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Michelle Obama about her book Becoming and a transcript has just recently been released. The whole thing is filled with wonderful insights, but you might have heard by now that, in the book, the former first lady says that she will never forgive Donald Trump for his birtherism. Towards the end of the interview, Oprah asked why it was important to say that at this time. Here’s Michelle’s response:
Because I don’t think he knew what he was doing. For him it was a game. But the threats and security risks that you face as the commander in chief, not even within your own country but around the world, are real. And your children are at risk. In order for my children to have a normal life, even though they had security, they were in the world in a way that we weren’t. And to think that some crazed person might be ginned up to think my husband was a threat to the country’s security; and to know that my children, every day, had to go to a school that was guarded but not secure, that they had to go to soccer games and parties, and travel, and go to college; to think that this person would not take into account that this was not a game—that’s something that I want the country to understand. I want the country to take this in, in a way I didn’t say out loud, but I am saying now. It was reckless, and it put my family in danger, and it wasn’t true. And he knew it wasn’t true.
She’s right. Donald Trump knew it wasn’t true. It was all a game designed to introduce him as a political player on the national stage. But it put Michelle and her family at risk and, as a mother, she had to live with that every day. That is why she’ll never forgive him.
All of that came on top of the kind of pressure the Obama’s felt from the moment they decided to enter the presidential race.
We felt the pressure from the minute we started to run. First of all, we had to convince our base that a Black man could win. It wasn’t even winning over Iowa. We first had to win over Black people. Because Black people like my grandparents—they never believed this could happen. They wanted it. They wanted it for us. But their lives had told them, “No. Never.” Hillary was the safer bet for them, because she was known…
Opening hearts up to the hope that America would put down its racism for a Black man—I think that hurt too much. It wasn’t until Barack won Iowa that people thought, Okay. Maybe so.
I encourage you to read the whole interview, which is filled with insights and wisdom from the former first lady. But when it comes to politics, there’s also an interesting story about how, early on in Michelle’s relationship with Barack, this happened:
Oprah: This I love so much—a moment that cracks me up: “I woke one night to find him staring at the ceiling, his profile lit by the glow of street lights outside. He looked vaguely troubled, as if he were pondering something deeply personal. Was it our relationship? The loss of his father? ‘Hey, what are you thinking about over there?’ I whispered. He turned to look at me, his smile a little sheepish. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I was just thinking about income inequality.’”
Michelle: That’s my honey.
Keep in mind that this would have taken place in the early 1990’s. So way back then Obama was laying in bed thinking about income inequality—a topic that wasn’t on most people’s radar screens until after the Great Recession.
Regardless of how you feel about this country’s 44th president, there is no doubt that the first lady’s story is worth hearing, especially because she served with such dignity, grace, and heart under extremely difficult circumstances for her and her family.