tv American Library Association Conference - Michelle Obama Keynote CSPAN July 5, 2018 8:01pm-9:13pm EDT
>> now the person you all came to the 17 "becoming". [applause] michelle robinson obama. [applause] a lawyer, author and the wife of the 44th president of the united states, barack obama. [applause] she has become a role model for many girls and an advocate for healthy families and service members and their families and international adolescent girls education. her much-anticipated memoir
"becoming" will be published november 13, 2018 by crown a division of penguin and will be released simultaneously in 24 languages. considered one of the most popular first ladies. >> caller: [applause] she invites readers into her world chronicle the experiences from her childhood from chicago to an executive and balancing the demands of motherhood and her time at the world's' most famous address. warm, wise, "becoming" is a
reckoning of a substance to defy expectations and story inspired us to do the same we are fortunate to have been my best to have carla hayden hosting the conversation with mrs. obama today. she was nominated for this position to the library of congress by president barack obama february 2016 and her nomination was confirmed by the u.s. senate july 2016. she was sworn in as the 14th library of congress they come together now for an in depth conversation around her forthcoming memoir "becoming"
emotional but i am the interviewer. >> remember our days. i have known carla since i was a baby professional. you shouldn't be nervous so that chicago public library and it was part of your portfolio and it made such a difference to have somebody who understood libraries and in government like that. [laughter] [applause] >> that was not shade. just making a point that's all. >> i was coming in from an academic teaching library. >> we go way back and when i
mentioned with part of your family reading. >> absolutely we are readers, the obama's we started reading to the girls when they were infant babies i was one of those kids who would set up the barbies and read to them and show them the pictures and then go back because i like that act of reading out loud so kids were like my real babies i could read to. i would read all the time i know every word of any dr. seuss anything. and as the girls grew up we would incorporate books as a family activity so then they started to read more complex
books so barack read all of the harry potter books out loud front to the back and then she could see the movie after they read it. that was their father daughter ritual. i stayed out of that because you want the father to have a thing that they do. i don't know anything about harry potter because i was not involved in that. [laughter] but when sasha got older, i read "life of pi" and then we saw the movie we like calvin and hobbes. it was a part of the way we put our kids to sleep at night. without the music reading
culture was part of their development from very early on we are big readers. >> also when you were in the white house they would be going to the bookstore. >> yes. that is all he does that silly place he knew how to go as president he could golf and go to the bookstore. the two things he felt comfortable doing but that was a ritual to go to one of the bookstores for the holidays. and in chicago that bookstore that was our neighborhood store to go to. yes bookstores and libraries were a big part of my life very early on.
i remember my first experience going to the library i was for and it was like the first official time if you like getting something with your name on it and going to the library in our neighborhood three blocks from our house and that is where my mom would take us as the first being girl thing i could do to get my library card and then watch them put me into the official file and i felt important i didn't know what to do with my library card because i do not have a wallet or a purse that it was a community space. it is a major part of any
community that was a place for our family to go to get to those early books, dick and jane, the children's corner where the colorful titles were. then graduate going upstairs where the serious books were upstairs. >> i got up there one day i graduated. that is when the library became work with research papers, the dewey decimal system. [applause] only here at the american library association can we give a shout out to the do we decimal system. i love you all. [laughter] >> so then you graduate and your life becomes even busier how do you read for pleasure?
did you get a chance to read anything for pleasure? >> yes. today however i spend most of my time selfishly focused on my book so that is what i'm reading and it is almost ready. i have been immersed in the process this year has been a little tougher because i try to stay in my voice but i do have my chief of staff melissa by the way with more excited to be here then seeing bruce springsteen. she loves you all and i may lose her here tonight she might leave me she has been with me from the very beginning of the campaign but
i usually read what she tells me i should read but lately? i have eclectic reading list. i like commonwealth at like a good story that takes me outside of myself and everything that has been done. i accidentally. >> reporter: it twice two years ago and then i thought have i read this? i know i have asp my best esp because i know what will happen because i forget what i have happen then i realized by the third chapter i had read it already but i finished it. >> i love her storytelling characters.
i just finished reading another powerful book the nightingale i read the other day. so i love stories i love to escape and i needed that escape for the past ten years to get out of my own story somebody else's story to go. i could not read in the white house there was too much going on and we were running so fast whenever i got a chance to sit down and pick up above i would maybe get a sentence and i would fall asleep. literally sitting down i don't
know if i was napping were passed out i could not tell the difference i would wake up and it was in our that is how the white house years felt. usually on a longer trip i could get into a book. but it was a hectic eight years. >> so now to pick up a book that implies a physical block. >> always. i am not a e-reader i like to have a book in my hand. [applause] even with my writing process i like to hold it. i feel like i have to write down my thoughts. i can jot down things on the iphone but that is hard i still have to touch it. i am old. sorry we still have a lot of
downtown and a friend's mother and my job entailed doing 1000 times over and over again that i would pass the cardboard over so my job was to take the metal thing to put it in the whole wall. was good for doing that the first day. [laughter] and i was aiming at finishing it that there would be thousand and i could prove that i was so fast i could completed and i was done but then i realize it's never over they just keep coming.
to do that work every day that is thankless and makes it possible for us to have books. i learned a work ethic at the bindery dozens of people who came there to do the same job every day years and years and years. it reminded me of my father those blue-collar workers who were impassioned in their jobs they didn't have the luxury to put food on the table. and that was my first experience shoulder to shoulder with men and women. >> you mentioned your father so many times about his work ethic and what it took for him
to go to work and provide. you saw that firsthand. >> my father. every value i have for my washington mother and father. i blue-collar worker working at the water filtration plant my father had an and contracted it out there priming his life i never knew him to walk without the assistance of a cane but he got up and every day was a shift job so some days he was on days some days on nights or evening so his schedule changed. i remember him putting on his white t-shirt and his uniform grabbing his crutches to make his way out the back door to the car to go to his job
without complaint or regret as he was proud he had a job that could invest in his children of me and my brother on the blue-collar salary for two of us through college and princeton at that and made sure. [applause] that we were long through long before they had financial assistance that put completely through they had to pay a portion of our tuition and he made sure it was paid on time he would not be able to be late or not register for classes. so who i am today is so much because of my parents and that hard work ethic and those values do what you say you will do. trust is important with honor
and honesty i saw my father behave in that way every single day with everyone regardless of race or station in life. so i think about when i write my book or how i carry myself in the world i do what i would expect them to do and i hope to be that person for them the 17. [applause] >> is your mom here? >> yes. so whenever anything happens he says mrs. robinson. she models after your mom. your mom was right there with you. >> grandma.
we could not have made it through the white house without her. she had been helping me long before coming to the white house because barack was a state senator in the u.s. senate and those were jobs that had him away from home usually most of the week. and i still had a full-time job and at any point in time i was a professional with the job of my own and we had little kids. we could afford help and we had a couple of great babysitters but the one time i lost that one good babysitter and it crushed me like nothing else when she said she had to be because she thought she needed to make more many i thought i was going to lose an arm. i don't need you.
leave i told barack you do nothing for me. [laughter] i remember that pain and thought how can i go to work every day and not know that my kids are good? not to get on a soapbox but why affordable childcare is so important because having access to that security for all the families out there who don't have a choice and have to go to work i know that pain of what it feels like because not just being safe but in a place somebody loves them and values and will read to them and take them to the library and not just pop them in front of the tv. i was about to quit working and i thought i just can't do it i cannot keep up the balance and who stepped in but my mom? not yet retired but would come
over at the crack of dawn and allowed me to go to the gym. start getting the kids ready for school and fix breakfast i would come back and grab them and take them to school she would go to work. she would come pick them up and get them home and start dinner by that time i would get home. we had a routine and it is just something about having your mom in that place. she will kill someone for her grandchildren. [laughter] so she was a grandmother at the pickup line she was going to be the first one at the pickup line she didn't want her grandbabies walking around wondering where their line was that she would get there one hour before pickup to be the first car so she could see her babies. bring them here. you can't pay for that. we brought that energy with us to the white house and we
needed that no-nonsense tell it like it is unimpressed with everything personality that is marion robinson. [laughter] she doesn't want anybody doing her laundry at the white house you can do her laundry just fine. >> really? >> no. we had housekeepers and butlers and everything at the white house she would say don't touch my underwear. [laughter] i'm too old for that. and she taught the girls to do their laundry so they have laundry duty with grandma _spee17 speemac she has helped to keep them grounded. >> oh my god yes the whole white house was grounded. [laughter] the butlers or the staff they would be in there chitchatting with her shooting the breeze telling their stories. she had like a counseling
session up there in her sweet. she kept us humble and focused on what was important and she was my sounding board any time anything crazy happened over the course of the day the first thing i would do in her suite of rooms was on the third floor above us i would sit on her couch she would have on msnbc trying not to talk about the news but i would let her know i was ready to talk about it and she would just up there and listen. and then what? [laughter] my mother was not going to solve your problems for you. she will listen and say what you think about that and by the time you leave you figure out. so so much of my ability to get out there is up to that
counseling will for her to say you will be fine go back down. [laughter] now. >> did she ever tell you that you talk about that a lot? what are you going to do? >> my mother and i write about this how my parents had the advanced parenting at a very early age and taught us how to advocate for ourselves very early so her expectation is you know how to fix your problems. you know what to do and when you teach kids at an early age they have a voice worth listening to number one and that their opinions matter and that is what they hear at the dinner table day in and day
out and then ask the questions to encourage kids to contribute. so when they came home from school with a problem you could air it but then you had to solve it. so at 40 or 50 years old my mother did not assume she had to solve any problems because her expectations you will do this and you will do it well because you know how. there was never any need to pretend like she had to give me direction but to instill those values and me. >> what a blessing. >> and you almost thought about quitting? some people don't realize the high-powered positions that you had and to balance that.
>> is first lady? >> i had a job before i was first lady everyone. [laughter] >> executive vice president. >> i had a big job. >> that is why sometimes when i get the question how did you know to do is first lady? i went to princeton and harvard law i was a lawyer worked in the city. worked with carla on the libraries and economic development run a nonprofit organization vice president of the hospital. maybe it was off most this. [laughter] -- osmosis so i didn't come to the position as a blank slate but that is what happens in society now all of a sudden you become a spouse and i talk
about this in the book how i felt like becoming a spouse going from an executive in the first thing people would talk about was what shoes is she wearing? no no no. you are not focusing on my shoes. right? but talking about military families doing important things but yes there were moments in my profession because the burden of child-rearing fell on me as a woman. it was a part of a trajectory with my husband missy got faster and higher and louder there was a challenge had let make sure my kids are safe and i have a career? but that started very early how do you balance it all? and was it fair that his
should rise when i have one too? so that is what you learn i tell people this all the time particularly young women what i have learned is you can have it all but usually not at the same time so even having that expectation to have it all is a set up for young people and young couples men and women with children with the notion you are not successful if you don't have it all it's hard to balance that all. but there are trade-offs that you make in that trade-off to step off of my path until i found a childcare solution that worked for me which is my mama entered team that -- you
step off the track i felt i had these two kids and i brought them here. my first priority is to make sure they are okay. i can't face the world if my household is not business solid. [applause] but the other thing i learned at that point i was ready to jump off the professional track i started to not care what people thought about me professionally so i felt more freedom to ask for what i needed. i stayed in my career because i had an opportunity to become vice president of community affairs at the university of chicago the president was looking for a new person to have that division. i just had sasha. she was four months i said i'm not doing it. i don't care. but my good friend said you should interview because he is
different. i said i don't care. i was still breast-feeding. we are going to interview he wants me to work for him but we don't care. he can see all of me had a baby and a husband and a u.s. senator mom --dash senator you want to hire this? i will need this much money, i lay down a whole list of demands that i knew would have have running in the other direction. [applause] because i really felt that freedom then maybe i will think about it and he said yes to the whole list. of everything i asked for. then i thought i have to try this now. but what i learned you have to ask for what you need and not
assume people will give you what you need and that taught me i can define the terms of my professional life so i thought if i'm going to do this i will do it in a way to provide balance in a say don't expect me to come to meetings if we are not doing anything. i am coordinating the halloween parade and that is important so i felt that freedom for my first time in my professional life knowing that i was worthy of it even with all my complicated miss i was still giving them value but i had to appreciate that value before i could ask for what i needed and not be afraid at all. >> that is easier said than
done i understand it is not easy to tell somebody you are worth a lot. especially women we have a hard time saying that but i know my worth that there is a value to it but those are the things i explore in the book as well but i have been thinking about these ideas and reliving them and what it has taught me. i am writing about all that. >> i found a little therapy and i'm still in it. >> and then having the time to step back you really didn't have time to reflect. >> not during the years we did
so much, so fast and we knew we didn't have the luxury. i lived my life with the only one at the table and we knew we would be measured by a different yardstick making mistakes is not an option not that we didn't not good but we had to be outstanding at everything we did and operating at that level and trying to live up to the expectations of your ancestors when you are the first you lay down the red carpet for others to follow. so we were moving fast. starting the initiative almost every year during the eight years i was there and when i started an initiative that
went into it beforehand because i knew strategic thinking had to happen so when we started let's move even before we launch that we would meet with every expert in the field forming partnerships before we even announced it. meeting with legislators and policymakers so when we stepped into the arena we knew the pitfalls in the partnerships and the holes but that his work we were doing at the same time with state visits and halloween parties in christmas decorations. so you're like a salon with a paddling legs underneath.
eight years of that so there was time when it would happen at the beginning of the week. >> this is the weird thing. or hanging out with the queen. okay that was my week are you kidding me? a state visit or the first trip to africa my solo trip and doing push-ups with bishop tutu literally please get up. [laughter] know i do push up. come michelle. come down. [laughter] i just looked around if something happens to him it is not me. [laughter]
doing push-ups with bishop tutu and gave a speech to a group of young african women leaders. i've met nelson mandela and we went on a safari. i went to botswana. in four days that steph would happen. then the next week and i would literally forget everything that just happened for. so be able to remember that and keep it in your head i would find myself forgetting. i literally forgot i had been to prague and we had this conversation and i said i've never been to prague and my chief of staff said yes you have it i said no. ever. and we went back and forth and it took a picture of me in prague to say you're right.
i forgot all about that. i was there for two days. that is the pace. you can forget major things not because they are not important but crowded out by the next series of issues at hand. i do know what your question wasn't how we got on this. [laughter] >> so thinking about all of that and your two little ones. >> my kids. i never forgot about them. [laughter] >> so that balance any advice? >> there is a lot of advice my balance is crazy because the first lady but also trying to go to the potluck and the soccer game tell the story how
barack obama goes to. teacher conference. he has a big motorcade. it is big. a lot of stuff. then sniper gear they follow him everywhere and they look at you like i will kill you because that is their job. but fourth grade on the roof at elementary school even the girls were like come on. you don't have to come to the concert. it's okay. [laughter] you can take a pass. but i would be there and mom would be there and trying to be a normal parent in the midst of this.
your kid is invited for a sleepover you have to to explain we need your social security number and there will dogs in your house and they will ask if you have guns and drugs and you have to say sorry this is what it means to have sasha over but it will be fine. [laughter] that kids have fun. they learn how to work past all of that. at least i was balancing not just the act of being a mother but also the first lady in the first daughters who had their own detail all the time and then trying to go to prom with eight men with guns doing anything else you try to do as a teenager with eight men with guns. barack obama and i were very happy about it.
[laughter] but you even half to learn how to discipline them without letting them think that their agents told on them. parents you understand so i had to lie a little bit where i got my information. julia's mom called me and told me. but not because i got a full detail. how do you think i knew? those are some of the parenting scenarios. so my goal as a parent was to make sure my kids had normalcy. that is the challenges for the average parent but here is what i learned.
kids don't need that much if they know that you love them, and conditionally you can live in the white house or know little bitty apartment home is what you make of it with that interaction every day and it doesn't have to be perfect it can be broken and funny in many ways and that was a level of dysfunction most families will never experience but it was odd and kids are resilient which is why think about all the kids that don't make it through because it takes a lot to break a kid but there are so many broken kids that reminds us how bad we are doing because you have to do really messed up stuff they
have to come from that brokenness that is so off and we have to see that in our children to understand there is a reason for it there is no such thing as bad kids they are not born bad. [applause] they are products of their situations so i learned to give myself a break because the kids are loved and will be fine and we did a lot of roll calls as parents but we hold them to high standards as people. we don't measure them by things or grades or how they interact in the world or how they treat their friends or each other like kindness and compassion. that is what we have tried to teach them over the years.
[applause] and kids watch what you do. not what you say so the biggest thing we can ever do to be good parents to our kids for them to see every day. that is true whether the president and the first lady or marion and fraser robinson. they don't know income or title and working in the communities and they come with such promise and they just want somebody to love them to tell them they are okay and that is one of the things i try to do as first lady because i always thought this could change a kid's life with
one hug. you are worth it. [applause] and you can make a difference. >> all of this you give to the communities and to your children but also i have heard you say that you have to put yourself first. yes. and men too but let's talk to the ladies. because we do that. we put ourselves forth on the priority list and sometimes are not even on her own list at all. with so many obligations and the guilt that we have but
that oxygen mask is real. you can't save somebody if you were dying inside and it looks like so many different things with our sense of all lung -- self worth and if we let that go don't nurture that than we are not good to anybody else. and that is something you have to practice i had to learn that because even in my mother was one of those who didn't do anything for herself. she died her own hair until she died it green. we said mom you don't know what you are doing. she's like it's fine. it's just green. [laughter]
i remember that. i grew up with women who did not put themselves first. and i thought i want to show my girls something else. and to see a woman out here in the world means you are smart and educated yes you are kind and loving but you can do some push-ups. think about what you will put into your body and what you will eat. take timeout for yourself and invest in your relationship with your friends it is important to see me having strong friendships with women in my life i have a posse of women who keep sane. [applause] that started early in my life
i had my lunch time girls we go to each other's house at lunch time to play jackson complain about the teacher and analyze things and then watch all my children then we are fortified to finish the day. but when my kids were young i had a strong group of women that are still a major part of my life i could not have gotten to those years without them we were all at varying stages son had husbands who travels every saturday we would get together and started when the babies were in the cradles and put them in a circle so they can look at each other. [laughter] and then we talked about everything are they walking
yet they supposed to be? all those questions as a new mother you don't know if you're doing anything right. but they didn't know anything either. we were all messing up and it was okay. we became our most important confidants and all of these kids have come up together are like cousins out in the world and that was another lesson that i have learned there is no one right way to do this if there is love inconsistency and a foundation and security they will be okay so we let ourselves off the hook and then we started to do fun stuff together we would do a boot camp at camp david i want to thank the woman because i was trying to get everybody healthy.
once every season i would bring them to camp david to do these intense workouts. i eliminated wine and then everybody said they were not coming so i put wine back on the menu. [laughter] so i would not lose my friends. we would work out three times a day and then the kids would say you are low on your push-ups. aren't you cute. don't call me ma'am. [laughter] so we were getting healthy together and we started to do seminars and then had sessions on menopause and other things i cannot talk about here. but that was my crew throughout the white house years and that was part of that self-care and we all got stronger over these eight years we got physically and
mentally stronger together in ways that i love my husband. he is my best friend but they are more fun sometimes. [laughter] but don't tell him. i have more fun with them sometimes. but they gave me that fortification that i needed so i encourage young mothers we were not meant to parent in isolation because of circumstances maybe they were transferred over to see this in military families she would move away with kids and be alone and wondering why is this so hard? is your not supposed to do this alone. children were not meant to be raised in isolation it does
take a village so it's not a home with your mom and aunty and your cousins then that will be your salvation to keep you sane in balance in a way we don't appreciate it. >> fun? >> i just told you a bunch of fun that we had. push-ups are fun. [laughter] you would not enjoy working out? >> you can tell carla doesn't work out because she thinks there is a score to be kept. yes we had fun. we made sure we had fun we wanted the white house to be a place of fun and in particular
tough times crisis, shooting and the amount of grief we didn't carry that that we had to help the country get through. you cannot have a crisis that country needs a moment to feel they can celebrate so we had halloween at the white house. kids came mostly military kids and would come around the south lawn the house was orange and everybody was in costume and trick-or-treat at the white house. any major state event we found a way to incorporate kids so we have a big act performing
and they agreed to do a separate performance from when we would fly the men from all over the country so every major star that came to the white house we had the whole cast of hamilton come back and perform. it was a very full circle moment for me because the very first cultural event we did at the white house was a spoken word event which is wrap a few don't know, cool poetry, but has never been done in the white house with george and martha standing there so we were finding some of the hottest young voices.
and we said what we perform young man? he said i will wrap about alexander hamilton. [laughter] that is when you remember that you cannot laugh in the face of your gas long -- and guests. are you kidding? then he on to perform the first number that he had prepared and obviously it was amazing. afterwards we were like that is really good he said yes i will do a whole broadway show on it. and we said good luck with that kid. [laughter] and then it blew up. so we invited the whole cast back first they did a whole day of workshops and doing lyric writing and you name
it. wrapping long -- t3 and the blue room and the yellow oval and they were everywhere and then did the performance in the east room with all these kids who never got to see a broadway performance but they all knew the words. and that fan always involves kids and then to make everything better and then to make sure that this white house belonged to them that when they would walk into it that this was a place that kids were supposed to be. not peering through the front gates but they were supposed to walk through those doors to experience everything that was going on. of all the things that we did
it was the most fulfilling and impactful work that we did those eight years. >> yes i am t3 in the blue room. they were draping with designers and mannequins and a whole workshop. with some of the designers to all those designers that would work with me but not make it about me so i had to be about kids so they all came for a day working with his young designers around the world and making jewelry, and they came together with a panel and they saw all these big names come and then they spent the day with these kids. it was about them but also fashion. i try to link about what people wrote about so if you like my shoes so let's teach
mentor, the first female executive chef at the white house, she was a mentor and they would meet with these kids all the time that they would come together once a day in the white house and it was interesting to see the transformation when they first start they couldn't look me in the eye. they were nervous because it was nerve-racking. we talk about everything and by ththe time we completed two yeas with us by their graduation ceremony they felt there was a shift in who they thought they were. they felt comfortable in that space in that room with me. they knew that they deserve that for themselves. and it's the process of giving them the exposure on a regular basis to say you are worthy i don't even care about your
grades, you are worth being talked to and listened to and after a while, they didn't even notice me. they had a confidence and my belief for them is if you can walk into the white house and with me in the eye and introduce yourself, there is no room you can't go into after that. [applause] right before we started, there was a high schooler and she's here. it's the first time, there she is. of course we hope she will be a librarian. any advice you might get a high schooler. >> how old are you?
>> 17. >> you're going to go to college, that's the first advice because you need a college education if you want to be competitive with. there is no right way to do it. you don't have to go to school and live in a dorm if that isn't your thing but you don't have to get an education beyond high school, high school diploma is not enough anymore. to be able to wear nice shoes and have power and all that good stuff. having an education is the key to that. so that is my advice in a
nutshell. [applause] we don't have much time left but they have to ask about the book because it is coming out in november. you've got to give us a few things so we can talk about it. that's what we do. if i were to describe the book, it is a humanization effort because for me, a black woman from a working-class background to have the opportunity to tell her story is interestingly rare. that is why some people ask the
question how did you go from here to there. it like people think i'm a unicorn, like i don't exist, like people like me don't exist and i know there are so many people in this country in this world who feel like they don't exist because their stories are not told where they think their stories are not worthy of being told and in this country we've gotten to the point that we think there's only a handful of legitimate stories that make you a true american. i hope that by telling it, it makes other others not just blak women or black people but other people, women who feel faithless
and invisible and voiceless to feel the pride in their story in tha way that i feel about mine. i am not a unicorn. there are millions of kids like me out there. sometimes people will see me and only see my color and make certain judgments about that and that is dangerous for us to dehumanize each other in that way. we are all just people.
she's becoming a lot of things in life but the journey continues and i hope it starts a conversation about voice and encoded just so many other people because we need to know everyone's stories. americans are good people. decent people really even if we don't agree on politics. and we have to remember that about ourselves and understand that is true not just america but around the world. there are no people out there, there are people who do bad things but all of us are just trying to figure it out and if we had done something horrible it's because we are broken in
and then you never talk to them again. you are so aware of the role strangers play in each other's lives. do you have any advice for being good strangers to the people around us clerks. i was losing hope every time. every time i was wrong because they know they've tried to help me out and one time in the book waiting for the fishing boats i thought should i go back to the hotel or just stay in the park. they help me in lots of different ways and i wanted to say something that would help them in without having faith in
humanity, there is no hope of. he told me my grandmother and my grandfather were trapped because of the holocaust. >> share the story of their family's peherfamily's pet rabbr book a day in th day in the life vice president. they spoke at the nixon presidential library in yorba linda california. this is 35 minutes.