tv American Library Association Conference - Michelle Obama Keynote CSPAN July 14, 2018 8:00am-9:11am EDT
she is a lawyer the wife of the 44th president of the united states. barack obama. she has become a role model. in an advocate for healthy families. higher education and international adolescent girls education. her much anticipated memoir becoming would be published in the u.s. and canada on november 132008 crowd. it will be released simultaneously in 24 languages. [applause]. considered one of the most
popular first ladies mrs. obama invites leaders into her world chronicling the experiences that had shaped her from her childhood on the south side of chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world's most famous address. warm, wise and becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance. who had defied expectations and whose story inspired us to do the same. we are also fortunate to have the librarian of congress carl
hayden hosting the conversation with mrs. obama. her nomination was confirmed by the u.s. senate in july 2016. she was sworn in at the 14th librarian of congress. library of congress carla hayden and first lady mrs. obama come together now for an in-depth conversation around her forthcoming my more becoming and the experiences that had impacted her life her family and her country. michelle obama.
would set up the stuffed animals. and read to them. and show them the pictures and then go back i loved the act of reading aloud so when i had kids they became my real babies i could read two. i read to them all the time. as the girls grew up we continued to incorporate books as a form of family. barack and melia read all of the harry potter books aloud from front to cover and then she could see the movie after they read it. that was the father daughter ritual. i stayed out of that.
i don't know anything about harry potter. i was not going to get involved in that. so when sasha got older i read life of pi with her. it was part of the way weight we put our kids to sleep at night. the reading culture was an important part of their development. from very early on. we are big, big readers. you would be going and they would be going to the bookstore giving books as
gifts. that's the only place he knew how to go as president. he could golf and get to the bookstore. in chicago the 57 store. that was our neighborhood store that we liked to go to. bookstores and libraries of course were big part of my life early on. it was like the first official time i got an identification.
i remember going into the library in our neighborhood that was three blocks from our house. it was sort of my first major big girl thing i could do. and stand counter high. and watch them put me into the official files. i felt really important. i didn't know what to do with my library card. it was a community space. for all of you and see is a major part of any community. you go up to the children's corner where the top colorful titles were.
i graduated. but the library became work. only here. always here. see you continued you went to school. how did you find time to read just for pleasure? we all want to know did you get a chance to read anything for pleasure. today however i'm spending most of my time selfishly focus on my book that's what i'm reading is almost ready.
i've been immersed in that process. this year has been a little tougher for me because i'm trying to stay in my voice but when i do had time i have one of my chief of staff melissa who by the way she's more excited to be here then she was to meet bruce springsteen. she's my book recommender. she loves you all. she has been with me since the very beginning of the campaign. but she is my book goober. i usually read what melissa tells me i should read. have a very eclectic sort of reading. i have read a commonwealth. i love a good story that takes me outside of myself.
i accidentally reread that. i read it maybe two years ago. then it was on my shelf and i thought have i read this. i know it's can happen what's can happen in the next page. i read it and i realized by the third chapter that i have read it already. i love her storytelling and her characters. exit west. very powerful. the nightingale i read just the other day. in shout outs.
i love all of her stuff. and love stories. i love to escape for a moment i needed to escape over the escape over the past ten years. i needed to get out of my own story. there was just too much going on. sitting down i don't know if i was napping or passed out i couldn't tell the difference it was a dick eight years.
>> i'm not an e reader. i like to have a book in my hand. even in my writing process i like to hold it i can't really edit things on the computer while. i can jot down things on an iphone but that's hard. i still have to be able to touch it. i'm old. my husband who still loves books around. we are still household where we had books on shelves. lots of books on shelves. i understand you actually
i was good for doing that for the first day even. i thought there would be an end to it. that i could complete it. it just keeps coming. that went on for weeks and weeks. doing the same thing i just thought i am ready for college. i can do this. it taught me great respect for the men and women that do that work every day. that makes it possible for us to have books and folders i
learned work ethic at the bindery. they did the same job every day for years and years. it reminded me of my father. those blue-collar workers that didn't have the luxury like we did to think about that. they have a do things to do things that put things on the table. they were making a living for their families. they mentioned 70 times about the work ethic and what it took for him to go to work and provide for things. every value that he has in me. as most people know my father was a blue-collar worker. he worked the same job his
entire life. he contracted at the prime of his life. but my father got up every day was a shift job. some days he was on days. his schedule a change i remember him putting on his white t-shirt and his blue button up uniform and getting his way out the back door to the car to go to his job without complaint or regret. because he was proud of that he have a job that allowed him to invest in his children. he put two of us through college and princeton at that. he made sure that we went to those long before they have
the financial assistance that put you completely through. we were still pain. and he made sure that our tuition was paid on time. so who i am today is so much because of my parents. trust is important honor, honesty. i saw my father behave in that way every single day with everyone regardless of race or station in life. that's why think about when i write my book and how i carry myself in the world.
and i still have a full-time job. i was a professional with a big job of my own. we could afford help and wait a couple of great babysitters the time i lost that one good babysitter and that question me like nothing else. when she said she have to leave because she needed to make more money i thought i was losing an arm. dude, just get out of here. you are of no help to me. i remember that pain. how can i go to work every day and not know that my kids are good. not to get on a soapbox. that's why affordable
childcare is so important. having access to that kind of security for all the families out there who don't have a choice. they have to go to work. i know the pain of what it feels like when you don't know if your kids are good. that they're in a place where someone loves them and is going to instill values in there. i was about to quit working. and i thought i just can't do it. i can't keep up the balance. who stepped in but my mom. who is not get retired but she would come over at the crack of dawn to allow me to go to the gym she would start getting the kids ready for school. she would go to work. she would go and pick them up. and get them home start dinner we have our routine down.
there's something about having your mom in that place where you know she will kill someone for her grandchildren. she was the grandmother at the pickup line. she was gonna be the first one at the pickup line. she would get there an hour before pickup to be the first car so that she would see her babies to bring him them here. you can't pay for that. we brought that energy with us to the white house. we needed it. the tell it like it is unimpressed with everything kind of personality that is marian robinson. she did not want anyone doing her laundry at the white house. she could do can do it just fine. we had housekeepers and butlers and everything at the
white house. and she's like don't touch my underwear, i've got it. she's too old for that. >> she taught the girls to do their laundry. she really helped keep them grounded. and everybody used to go up to her room for the staff and they would just chitchat with her. get some rest was wisdom. telling her stories. she kept us humble she was my sounding board. anytime anything crazy happened over the course of the day. her sweet every him was was on
the third floor above us. she would have on msnbc or something she would do what she always did. my mother was not going to solve your problems for you. she's been a listen and she would say what you think about that then you'd figured out by the time you leave you would feel great. so much of my ability to get out there again and again had to do with going up to that little counseling room you'll be fine. just go on back down there. did she ever tell you you talked about that a lot. what are you going to do?
>> my mother my mother and my parents have a very advanced sense of parenting. they taught us how to advocate for ourselves very early. you know how to fix your problems. and when you teach kids at an early age that they have a voice that is worth listening to number one and that their opinions actually matter and that's what they get day in and day out. and encouraging kids to when you came home from school with a problem you could err it but you have to go back and solve it at 40 or 50 years old my
mother was not assuming and all that she needs to solve any problems that i have. her expectations were that you will do this because you will do it while and you know how to do it. there was never any need for her to even pretend like she have to give me directions. and you mentioned also. that you almost because you did had and i don't know how many people realized what high-powered positions you have as a career woman. i have a job before i was first lady everyone. and sometimes that's why sometimes when i get the questions how did you know
what to do as first lady. i was a lawyer. i worked in the city. working at planning and economic development. maybe it was osmosis. i did not come up blank slate. and that's what i sort of happens in society. you become a spouse all the sudden. i talk about this talked about this in the book. i went from being an executive to a spouse. what shoes is she wearing. you're not focusing on my shoes rate.
there were moments in my profession. it fell on me as a woman. there was a part of my trajectory. as my husband's assent got faster and higher and louder there was a challenge of how i make sure that my kids are sane and i have a career. that started very early. those doubts and questions and how do you balance at all. and is it fair that we are on his rocketship ride when i had one too. that's something i write about. the balance in marriage. what i have learned is that you can have it all but you can't have it all at the same time.
men and women with children. it's hard to balance at all. i started to learn that life is long. the trade-off of the stepping off of my path until at least i found childcare solution which worked for me i entertained the notion of the stepping up in my track. .. .. but the other thing i have learned at that time when i was
ready to jump off of the professional track i started not caring what people thought about me professionally so the freedom to ask for what i needed. i wound up staying 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 head that division and i had just had sasha who was 4 months old. not doing it, don't care about work but one of my friends so you should interview because this guy is really different. and i was like i don't care. i was still breast-feeding. i had sasha, we are going to an interview, we will see this man will we don't care so we are going and he needs to see all of me. i have a baby and a husband who
is a us senator or whatever he was doing at the time. you want to hire this let me tell you what it will take, i need this much money, flexibility, i lay down a list of demands that i knew were going to have him running in the other direction because i really felt the freedom to be like if you can do this, this, this may be i will think about it and he said yes to all of the list of all the things i asked for. i thought wow. i guess i have to try this now. what i learned is as women, as individuals, you have to ask for what you need and not assume that people are going to give you what you need. that taught me that i can define the terms of my professional life in a way i didn't feel the freedom to do. if i'm going to do this i will do this in a way that provides balance. i told folks don't expect me at
every meeting, don't expect me to come to meetings when we are not doing anything. i am going to the halloween parade and that is important. i'm doing my job and doing it well but this meeting is an necessary. i felt that freedom for the first time in my professional life to ask, knowing i was worthy of it, that i was valuable to them even with my complicated this, still giving them value but i had to learn to appreciate that value before i could ask for what i needed. >> and not be afraid. that they might say no. >> which is easier said than done. it is not easy to tell somebody you are worth a lot especially for women. we have a hard time saying that about ourselves that i know my worth and i can put a monetary number on it too, that there is
a value to it. and those are the kinds of things i am exploring in the book. i'm not just trying to pump the book. >> for the last year i have been reliving these things and figuring out what it has taught me. i am writing about all that. if i sound a little therapy here i am still in it. >> and you have time to step back because you mentioned going and going, you didn't have time to reflect. >> no time to reflect in eight years. we did so much so fast, and we knew we didn't have the luxury to make mistakes is when you are the first, i have lived my
are operating at that level and trying to live up to the expectations of your ancestors, your fathers, you are the one that is laying the red carpet down for others to follow so we were moving fast. i was starting an initiative almost every year during the eight years i was there and when starting this initiative there was a lot of work that went into it beforehand, i knew strategic thinking, when i started, let's move before we launched, we spent a
into the arena, we knew what the pitfalls would be, what the partnerships were, that was work at the same time, halloween parties and christmas decorations, so you are like a swan with the paddling legs underneath, there were eight years of that so i realized there was time something major would happen at the beginning of the week, say you met the pope or something like that. this is the weird thing, the kind of stuff we did. i met the pope or hanging out with the queen, that is my
week, that could be in one week. a state visit, my first trip to africa, my solo trip involved doing push-ups with desmond tutu, literally, please get up. he was like no, i am going to do push-ups. come down. i looked around, something happens to him it is not me. i was doing push-ups with bishop tutu. i gave a speech to a group of young african-american leaders. i met nelson mandela. we went on a safari. i went to botswana. that is four days, all of that stuff would happen in four days
and then i could literally forget everything that just happened the week before because something like that would be happening in the next week. to be able to remember it always keep it in your head, i would find myself forgetting i went to prod. i literally forgot that i have been to prod. we had this conversation. somebody said what did you think of prague. i said i have never been to prague and why chief of staff that use you have. i have never been to prod ever. she was like yes. we went back and forth and it took a picture of me in prague, you are right. i forgot all about that. i was there for two days. that is what the pace is. big major things not because they weren't important but they get crowded out by the next
series of issues and demands. i don't know what the question was that we got on this. i forgot the question. >> when you think about all of that and you have the two little ones. >> my kids. >> they might have -- >> i never forgot about them. >> when people think about balance, any advice for how people -- >> there is a lot of advice for balance. my balance is crazy because you are the first lady but also trying to go to the potluck and the soccer game and i tell the story of the parent-teacher conference, here the big motorcade, a lot of stuff and men with guns, machine guns, they are leaning out, looking at you like i will kill you
because that is their job but when they are at fourth grade on the roof, even melia was like dad, come -- okay when dad didn't go. very politely gone. you don't have to come to the fall winter concert. it is okay. you can take a pass. i would be there and mom would be there. you would be a normal parent in the midst of it. and you have to explain to them, there will be dogs sweeping your house and they are going to ask if you have guns and drugs and you have to tell them this is what it means to have sasha over but it is
going to be fine but kids have fun. they learn how to work past all of that but you are balancing. i was balancing not just the act of being a mother of first daughters who have their own detail all the time. imagine trying to go to the prom with eight men with guns, doing anything else as a teenager with eight men with guns, we were very happy about it. we were very -- she had to learn how to discipline them letting them know their agents told on them. i had to lie about where i got
my information from. how do i know no parents were at the party? julia's mom called me and told me not because i got a full report. how do you think i knew? those are some of our parenting scenarios. my goal as a parent was to make sure my kids had normalcy. that is a set of challenges for the average parent. kids don't need that much. if you don't know you love them unconditionally, and you can live in a little bitty apartment i grew up in. and doesn't have to be perfect,
broken and funny and odd in many ways and oddness was a level of dysfunction they will never experience but it was odd. and kids are resilient, they make it through which is why i think about all the kids that don't make it through. it takes a lot to break a kid. it takes a lot but there are so many broken gigs which reminds us how bad we were doing because you got to do really messed up stuff to kids to send them off. they have to come from the brokenness that is so off and we have to see that in our children and understand that when kids act out there is a reason for it, no such thing as bad kids, kids aren't born bad.
they are not. they are products of their situation. i have learned to give myself a break because my kids are loved and they are going to be fine and we make a lot of wrong calls as parents, but we hold them to high standards as people. we don't measure them by grades but how they interact in the world, how do they treat each other. things like kindness and compassion and empathy, those are things we tried to teach them over the years and here is the thing, kids watch what you do, not what you say. the biggest thing we could do to be good parents to our kids is being good people in the world for them to see every day.
and that is true whether you are the president and the first lady or marion and fraser robinson. those standards don't know title or income. that is just all the kids need. as librarians know, working in the communities, they come into your doors and have such promise and they just once somebody to love them, to tell them they are okay and that is one of the things i tried to do, i did so much with kids because i always thought this is the interaction that could change a kid's life, this one hug, this one you are worth it. you never know what can make a difference. [applause] >> all of this, giving to the
communities, giving to your children, but you also heard you say sometimes you have to put yourself first, not feel guilty about taking care of your self. >> oh yes, ladies and men too but let's talk to the ladies on this one because we do that. we put ourselves forth on our priority list after everybody else and sometimes we are not even on our own list at all it is so filled with so many obligations and the guilt that we have. this is nothing new but oxygen mask metaphor is real. you can't save someone if you are dying inside and that can look like so many different things, it can be our sense of
self-worth, our mental well-being. all of that if we let that go and don't nurture it, as women we are not good to anybody else and that is something you have to practice and i had to learn that because i didn't see that, my mother was one of those who didn't -- my mother died her own hair and turned green. it is green, it is not working, you don't know what you're doing can just go to the hairdresser, and she is like it is fine, it is just green. i remember that. i grew up with women who didn't put themselves first. i want to show girls something
else. a good woman out here in the world means you are smart, educated, gentle and kind and loving but you can do some push-ups. think about what you put into your body, what you eat, you are going to take time out for yourself, invest in relationships with your friends, it was important for me, my girls to see me having strong friendships with women in your life, i have a posse of women who keep me sane and it started early in my life. i had a crew of women, girls, my lunchtime girls, in grade school, and complained about the teacher and analyzed things and got ourselves together and were fortified and could go back in and finish the day.
that was my early group. when my kids were young i had a strong group of women, a major part of my life and couldn't have gotten through the early years without them because we were all at various stages of our professional career, some were married, some are single parents and some had husbands who traveled but every saturday we started when babies were in the cradles and set them down around each other in a circle so they could look at each other and talk about everything, about are they walking yet? all the questions you have and don't know if you are -- they didn't know anything either, just messing up and it was okay but we became our most
important confident as mothers raising kids and all the kids who came up together were like cousins out in the world and of all done well which was another lesson i learned, you can parent all kinds of ways, no right way to do it. if there is love and consistency and a foundation and security, we learn to let ourselves off the hook and then started doing fun stuff together, worked out together, these same women i would do a boot camp with i want to thank these women who would come because i was trying to get everybody healthy, i would bring them to camp david and we do these intensive workouts. i aluminate wine and stuff like that unless i put wine on the menu so i had to put wine back on their just do not lose our friends but workout 3 times a day and the navy cadet kids are
like you are like you are just so cute, don't call me ma'am. we were getting healthy together and started doing seminars. one of my friends as we got older would have sessions on menopause and other things i can't talk about here but that group, that was my crew throughout the white house years and that was part of the self-care we felt good about and got stronger over these eight years, this group of women, we got physically and mentally stronger together in ways that, i love my husband, he is my best friends but they are more fun sometimes. don't tell him. he doesn't know that i have more fun with them sometimes,
but they gave me the kind of fortification that i needed and i encouraged young mothers to understand we were not meant to parent in isolation. so many young parents, circumstances, maybe they are living away from their homes. i saw this in military families. a military mom would have kids, be alone and she would be wondering why is this so hard? because you are not supposed to do this alone. children were not meant to be raised in isolation. we need community, it takes a village so i encourage young women to build their village. if it is not at home with your mom and your aunt and your cousins, build that village because it will be your salvation. it keeps you sane and keeps you in balance in a way that we don't appreciate.
>> what about fun? >> i just told you a bunch of fun we had. >> the push-ups. >> the push-ups are fun. so you wouldn't enjoy working out with me? >> i keep score. >> it doesn't work out because she thinks there are words to be capped during a workout. one push-up for me and one for you but we had fun. we made sure we had fun and wanted the white house to be a place of fun, particularly in tough times and we went through tough times, crisis, shootings, the amount of grief that we -- we weren't carrying it, we had to help the country get
through. you can't have all crisis, the country needs a moment to celebrate in some way, shape or form even in the darkest times was we had halloween at the white house and kids came, mostly military kids and families came around the south lawn and it was decorated and the house was orange and everybody was in costume and they got to trick or treat at the white house, any major state event whether it was a state dinner, we found a way to incorporate kids in that. we had a big act performing in the evening. usually they would agree to a separate performance or talk or workshop with young kids and fly them from all over the country for different experiences so a very full cir
moment for me because we first met lynn manwell, the first cultural event at the white house was the spoken word event. the spoken word, wrapped for those who don't know, poetry, cool poetry has never been done in the white house in the east room with george and martha standing there. we were going to do that as the first event, we were handing the hottest young voices in his young kid came up and we were like you got to perform, young man and he said i
will do a rap about alexander hamilton. we were like -- you cannot laugh in the face of your
guests and go what? are you kidding? he went on to perform the first number, the first number that he prepared and it was obviously amazing and afterwords, that is really good. i am going to do a whole broadway show on it. good luck with that. and then it. up. we invited the whole cast back and they performed, they did a whole day workshop for kids from all over the country, doing lyrics writing, you name it,
they were in the red room writing and wrapping in the blue room, dancing and you name
it, they were everywhere and they did the performance in the east room with all these kids who never got to see the broadway performance but they all knew the words. we had lots of fun and all our fun involves kids because kids are good. they make everything better and we wanted to make sure kids felt like this white house belonged to them, that they felt when they walked into it and kids of all background felt this was a place that kids were supposed to be, not like peering in the front gates but they were supposed to walk in the doors and experience everything that was going on in there. of all the things we did, the work we were able to do with young people was the most fulfilling and hopefully most impactful work we did in those eight years. >> they felt i'm wrapping in the blue room. >> we did a whole design workshop where kids were draping with designers and mannequins, did a whole
workshop and helped put it together. we had the top designers come and a way to give an homage to all-american designers who worked with me. it had to be about kids. they all came for a day of working with young designers around the world and they were making jewelry in different rooms and came together for a panel and got to meet diane and all these big names came and they spent the day with these kids and it was about them but also about fashion. that is the way i tried to think about the stuff people wrote about to something that was important, you like my shoes but let's teach kids how to be designers, what this craft means in america. that is not just about how you look or what you do and all of that was fun. >> the kids left feeling like i have been to the white house. >> they felt they were
something special. i'm in the white house doing this. we had a mentor program we never publicized but i worked every year with a group of 20 girls from the area because mentoring is a big part of my life so he had some young kids from the dc area, not the top kids but not the kids struggling the kids in the middle, a lot of programming for them and they would be paired up with high-powered women in the administration, the first female executive chef at the white house who laura bush appointed, she was the mentor and they would meet with the kids all the time but they would come together once a month, they were shy and
couldn't look me in the eye. you were in the white house, and talking, by the time they complete it, usually two years with us, by their graduation ceremony when parents would come, they felt a shift in who they thought they were. they felt comfortable in that space in that room with me. and the process of giving that exposure on a regular basis, you are worthy, don't even care about grades. and after a while they own the place. and show me the blue room.
and if you can walk into the white house. there is no room -- no room you can't go into after that. >> right before i started. there was a highschooler and for the first time -- and we hope she will be a librarian. >> how old are you. >> that is the first advice. you need a college education in this day and age if you want to be competitive. we live in the united states of america.
we have wonderful community colleges and so many ways to do it, no one way to do it, you don't have to go to a four your school and live in a dorm if that is not your thing, an excellent experience but you have to get an education beyond high school. that is a must. and to take care of your families and wear nice shoes and have power and all that good stuff and having an education is the key to that. that is my advice. in a nutshell. [applause] >> i have to ask about the book. >> i have been talking about the book. >> coming out in november. >> are you guys ready? >> we want to be ready to
booktalk. give a few things so we can booktalk it. >> i have given you a few tidbits but if i were to score to describe the book, it is a re-humanization effort. for me, a black woman from a working-class background to have the opportunity to tell her story is interestingly rare, people ask the question how did you become -- how did you go from here to there. people think i'm a unicorn. like i don't exist. and people don't realize they
don't exist. and a handful of legitimate stories that make you a true american. you don't belong. my book is just the ordinariness. by telling it, it makes others, not just black women, not just black people but other people, people who feel faceless and invisible and voiceless but feel deprived in their story in a way that i feel about mine. the ordinariness of growing up as working-class kid, they don't have a lot of money and i grew up with music and art and love and that is about it.
and encouraged to get an education. i am not a unicorn. it is a shame that 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 that way. we are all just people. with stories to tell and we are flawed and broken and there is no miracle in our stories, we are living life trying to do good and that is to this little girl is, she is becoming a lot of things in life but the journey continues and i hope it start the conversation that encourages so many people because we need to know everyone's story so we don't
forget the humanity in each other. in the course of eight years traveling around the country, americans are good people, decent people, really even if we don't agree on politics. we have to remember that about ourselves, there are no devils out there, 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 you have done something horrible it is usually because we were broken in some way and if we understand each other's stories maybe we can be more empathetic and more inclusive. and the more open. i hope that the book encourages some conversation around those
>> that happens tonight on c-span2's booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books, television for serious readers. >> what do you do for a living? >> i am the chairman and ceo of duncan brands, two great brands, dunkin' donuts and baskin-robbins and i have been there for 9 years. >> what did you do prior? >> i was ceo of public zones, then i rose through the ranks ending up as president and coo