Wisdom//

11 Things I Learned From Attending Michelle Obama’s Book Tour

These simple quotes speak volumes.

Courtesy of Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images
Courtesy of Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

Last night, which happens to have been my fiance’s and my 12th anniversary, I celebrated in one of the best ways I can think of: by watching former First Lady Michelle Obama give a book talk with Sarah Jessica Parker at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. As ever, Obama was wise, thoughtful, reflective, and full of excellent advice. Here are some of her best quotes from the night.

1. On the stress of her job as First Lady:

“As First Lady, your job is not to nurture yourself. It wasn’t about us. It was about the country.”

2. On the power of owning your story:

“I’m not ashamed of my journey. It’s my obligation to be truthful. It’s the journey we all take.”

3. On the vitality of empathy:

“We have to give other people a break. We call it empathy. Context is key.”

4. How our nation can become hopeful again:

“Grace can be buried by fear, doubt, and greed. But hope is not a passive word. You have to actively participate in hope.”

5. Remembering her feelings right after leaving the White House:

“We spent eight years trying to operate in complete perfection. I wept because I told Barack, ‘That was so hard.’ That was the first time I could say that out loud.”

6. On the time her idol made her cry:

“Our last party in the White House was an emotional party: joyous and loud, but melancholy. Stevie Wonder took me aside and told me he was proud of me. He moved me to tears… His album Talking Book was the first time I heard lyrics that were meaningful and powerful.”

7. What she learned from working with children as First Lady:

“What I learned deeply in this role is the importance of showing children my regard. The wrong set of words can set a kid backwards. But the right words matter deeply… If nobody says to one of those kids that they’re worth it, but then the President and First Lady show them they are, it can change their world.”

8. Her secret to a long marriage:

“You have to remember that even the best marriages take work. I love my husband. Our marriage gets stronger with every hard mountain we climb together. Love at first sight doesn’t last. It’s the struggle. That’s what makes it.”

9. On the importance of truly knowing your romantic partner:

“I got to know Barack as a friend first. And I saw how he was as a person. I saw at work how he dealt with everyone, from the doormen to the secretaries. I went to a community organizing event with him. That made me see his heart and soul. You have to see the full package, not just the person’s name or school. There’s more that will show a man who for who he is, and how he’ll treat you.”

10. On why we all need to be open to possibility:

“We can’t have a preconceived notion of what hope and help looks like. God shows us in all forms. We are socialized to think leadership and power look a certain way. God could send help in all kinds of forms! We have to be open to what that is… We don’t want to block our blessings because we’re limited.”

11. On the value of giving back:

“I want young people to understand service and giving is mutual… It’s the thing that fills you up. I learned the most about myself when I was giving. It’s why I switched careers.”

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 03:  Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama watches the surprise video message from her husband Former President of the United States Barack Obama during Pennsylvania Conference For Women 2017 at Pennsylvania Convention Center on October 3, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women)
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