Ever wondered what it’d be like to listen in on one of Oprah and Michelle Obama’s conversations? Well, thousands at Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Barclays Center had the chance, as the “forever first lady” recently sat down with the “queen of all media” for Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour, sponsored by Weight Watchers.
Winfrey’s full interview with Mrs. Obama aired on Wednesday, Feb. 12, but People magazine was in the house to hear the longtime friends discuss a range of topics, including the first lady’s now 27-year marriage, empty-nesting with husband Barack, life after the White House, and her new life as a bestselling author (and Grammy winner), co-producer (of an Oscar-winning documentary), and international advocate.
“The next phase of my journey of becoming is really continuing to make sure that what I do has meaning and purpose to somebody outside of myself,” she said, later adding, “I want to empower the next generation of politicians, and community activists, and teachers and doctors and lawyers. I want to be a part of laying out a set of values and principles that we can all be proud of; of this country.”
It may seem a high bar, given our current state of affairs, but those of us who remember the Obama years fondly also vividly remember that sense of pride. And while she’s now not only lived in the most powerful house in the world but traveled the world, as well, Mrs. Obama knows where she comes from:
“I’m Michelle from the South Side of Chicago,” she told Winfrey. “[W]e were raised with the [idea that] that’s enough. You be grateful for what you have and you don’t look at the next thing. You be happy with what you have, and that’s how we worked in the White House. That didn’t change because we moved to a different house...The House didn’t define us, it’s the values that defined us.”
Of course, the Obamas’ house looks different now, with Malia, 21, and Sasha, 18, off at college. While we’ve heard the harrowing tale of dropping their youngest daughter off at the University of Michigan, we have to give the Obamas credit for not surveilling their kids on social media.
“It’s better for them to be checked by somebody younger than me,” said Mrs. Obama. She later added: “They cannot define themselves by looking at each other or looking at me or their dad. They have to take the time to get to know themselves—give themselves a moment to figure out who they want to be in the world, not who they think I want them to be, not what the rest of the world says about them, but to really think about how they want to shape their lives and how they want to move in this world. So, I don’t want them measuring themselves by external influences, and for young girls, that is hard to do.”
As for that picture-perfect marriage so many are trying to emulate this Valentine’s Day? To hear Mrs. Obama tell it, after raising two girls and enduring eight years under a global microscope, she and Barack are finally “seeing each other again.”
“You can have chunks of hard, bad times and if that’s how you define your marriage by just the hard times, then you’ll miss the truth of what’s really there,” she said.
Honestly, we still long for the Obamas, but if you’ve had your fill, you’re in good company:
“I just spent a year on a book tour talking about me. It feels like, that’s enough,” said Mrs. Obama. “Now, let’s talk about somebody else’s story...I’m not here to talk about my story, or to talk about my journey. I’m here to shine a light on other young women.”