Becoming – Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, is a refreshingly honest and fascinating insight into the major decisions, challenges and events in her life. This left me with even more respect and admiration for her and Barak. It provides wonderful coverage of her thinking and actions through life, from childhood to lawyer, to wife and mother, and to First Lady.
Michelle’s background in the South Shore neighbourhood in Chicago is openly chronicled to the reader and shows a person shaped by her hardworking and loving family, a father that grafted every single day at the water filtration plant, even with multiple sclerosis making it difficult to walk. The foundations of her determination and her devotion to her own family with Barak were rooted deeply during those early years. Her telling of losing family and friends is just heartbreaking, more because she goes beyond loss, and ties it to life, and life’s lessons.
After meeting Barak and establishing a loving relationship, Michelle recognised his vision and drive, which led her to question her own high paid legal career, to seek something that would give her similar meaning and purpose that would go well beyond the need to secure a higher and higher salary. She changed jobs, taking massive pay cuts to find that meaning, purpose and contribution to society. She worked for non-profits, City Hall, healthcare and academia, so she could make an impact where it mattered, to heal divisions and disparities.
What has inspired me most about Michelle and Barak is that they give a sense of possibility to ordinary people. A possibility that doesn’t require sacrificing everything for that single self-centred goal. We can strive for a life of balance, a balance between family and career, between self-need and freely giving, and between reality and dreams. The realm of politics is very strange and I have often held a thought that anyone determined to be in politics should be enough reason for them not to be elected. Those thoughts played on Michelle’s mind as she watched Barak become drawn into that manipulative and dishonest world. While ultimately providing all the support she could to her husband’s mission, she was steadfast in keeping her focus on family needs. There are slips along the way but with careful and honest reflection, she grounds the family again and prevents the glamour of their position affecting her family values.
“I was a full-time mother and wife now, albeit a wife with a cause and a mother who wanted to guard her kids against getting swallowed by that cause.”
This book provides a unique perspective on the greatest political achievement for many decades in the US. The achievement that working class people can further their education, their careers and their dreams to the pinnacle of ambition. What caught the imagination of the world was that Barak Obama would not only become the USA’s first black president but would disregard the supposition that only money families could achieve such a high office.
Of course, this book is inspirational, but it is also the manner in which it was achieved that inspired people worldwide. Michelle pays such heartfelt devotion and praise to her husband’s role and gives another lens on his achievements. Barak’s views came from a place of inclusion, positivity, caring, principles and hard work. Compare that with what we see today, not only in the US but globally. He also had a natural ability to engage people and inspire possibilities.
“Barack looked out at the audience and into the TV cameras, and as if kick-starting some internal engine, he just smiled and began to roll. He spoke for seventeen minutes that night, explaining who he was and where he came from.”
“The media response to Barack’s speech was hyperbolic. “I’ve just seen the first black president,” Chris Matthews declared to his fellow commentators on NBC.”
Michelle’s life as First Lady illustrates how serious she took the role and how she used it to tackle issues that were important to her, such as education rights for girls, while also resolute in maintaining a regular family life that they would return to when the presidency terms were over. She is a lady of utmost intelligence and dignity, with a strong moral focus. Pity, she won’t ever run for President.
I felt the book revealed more than I was expecting, however, it wasn’t a tell-all account and provided the perfect balance between factual insight and titillating gossip. The book created a captivating and enthralling story, deeply moving at times, and with a conviction to keep family and friends’ secrets private.
I listened to the audiobook version so I could take the opportunity of hearing Michelle Obama’s story in her own eloquent words. The narration feels deeply moving and personal and on the many emotional events in her life, it becomes so touching that you are totally enchanted in the little bubble that now surrounds you.
This is a book I highly recommend and really worth reading or my preference, listening to.