She might not live in the White House anymore, but that hasn’t stopped former First Lady Michelle Obama inspiring us on the regular.
In fact, she’s our go-to girl when it comes to pep talks.
Last year saw the London leg of her new memoir Becoming’s book tour sell out in seconds so it’s hardly surprising that when she returned, she went big – choosing the 02 arena for her extra show.
‘Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama’ was hosted by US talk show host Stephen Colbert last night and despite being in front of a 15,000-strong audience, it did manage (as promised) to feel intimate.
In search of some serious Michelle Obama inspiration, Team Marie Claire went along with Live Nation and experienced it for ourselves.
The atmosphere was electric and this writer isn’t embarrassed to admit that she cried early on – a mix of the female power ballads, montages of Michelle’s life and excited Mexican waves rippling the crowd.
Once the 55-year-old started talking however, you could have heard a pin drop, with every audience member on the edge of their seat to hear her recall everything from her first meeting with Barack to how her father raised her to be an equal, teaching us all life lessons along the way.
Here were our most inspirational takeaways from Michelle Obama’s UK tour…
‘Hope takes patience whereas fear is immediate’
‘It’s easy to go low. It’s easy to stoop and to lead with fear – that’s one of the easiest ways to operate. But going high means you’re taking a longterm view. You have to think about whether the words you’re about to utter will help or hurt. And you have to be really systematic and strategic and thoughtful about that. Hope takes patience, whereas fear is immediate.’
Hard work goes a very long way
‘If you don’t take control of your message and your image and your voice, someone else will do that. That was an important lesson for me to learn. People were literally trying to reshape my voice. I could have gone home and said, “I quit – this is too hard”, but I saw it as a challenge, adding to the underestimation that started when I was in second grade. Every step of the way, there was always someone there telling me that I was talking too loud or dreaming too big. I learnt that I could either succumb to it and wither away or I could become steely and say “I’ll show you”. So I did that. I said “Ok, you don’t think I’m worthy of being First Lady, you don’t think that I’m smart, you don’t think that I’m strategic, you don’t understand that I love my country – well I’m going to just do the work. I’m going to put my head down and I am going to work hard. I’ll show you.” So I worked my tail off.’
‘We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines’
‘My advice is get to work – don’t be complacent and don’t become so cynical that you just turn off because democracy never stops just because you get cynical and emotional about it. It keeps going. So we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.’
Anyone can make global change
‘A lot of young people think that change only happens on a big stage, that you have to be President, the Queen, hold some high position or be wealthy, and some of that comes from the fact that we only hear limited stories of what it means to be a leader. The books that are written about leaders are primarily about rich white men. And so we naturally start thinking that power is what change is because that’s all we know. That’s why telling more stories is important. That’s why sharing more of ourselves is important, because we’ve got to get more images out there in the world of what it means to be human and make change.’
‘It’s our job to do a better job’
‘There’s no one way to get things right. There are many ways to be human and do it well. There’s no one religion, no one race, there’s no one who has a monopoly on kindness and compassion and truth. And I get emotional when I think about it because it just hurts when we don’t get that and we hurt each other over this kind of stuff. We have an obligation not to lose faith in the possibility of being better – we have to do it for our kids. They deserve a world that is full of hope. And when I think about the youngest of our kids and the kids in this audience, they’re just so full of promise. They’re not jaded, they’re not racist, they haven’t been harmed in any way – they come into this word pure. We fill them up with all that stuff, it’s not the natural way humans are meant to be. So, it’s our job to do a better job, and give our kids a sense of what’s possible.’
‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice’
‘We have to understand that as Martin Luther King said – my husband uses this quote often – “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, and it bends because we help it bend”. So that’s my advice – it’s time to do some bending. It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves. We have to pay attention, we have to be engaged, we can’t take our rights and liberties for granted because if we don’t vote, somebody else will, and that will be the direction that our country will go in. This is still in our control. This is still within our power.’
‘Change is hard but you have to keep pushing’
‘Yes there are bumps in the road, but that’s what change is. Change is hard. No one ever said it would be easy and we’re just in the throws of the uneasy part of change. But we have to keep pushing. We have no other choice.’
‘We have to learn to be more empathetic’
‘It’s almost a bit unreasonable for us as a world to expect change to be without fear for some. And in truth, we have to learn to be a bit more empathetic because there are people who are afraid because the world is changing so fast. And their fears are real. We may not agree with them but some people don’t know where their place will be in this new and changing society. “Where will I work?” “Will I have a job?” “Will I become invisible?” People are afraid of that change and why wouldn’t they be? But we have changed before.’
‘It’s all going to be OK’
‘This may seem like a dark chapter, but there are highs and lows. And yes, we are in a dark place right now, but we’ve been darker. And we will come out on the other side better and stronger’.
Well that’s our daily dose of inspiration.
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