Michelle Obama Talks New Freedom, Gender Equality & Not Crying On Inauguration Day In First Post White House Sit Down
President Obama made headlines when he during his first speaking engagement this past week. Funny thing is, he was the one asking the questions. But the fact that we miss him so much was enough to have folks clamoring over his every word.
He’s not the only one getting back out there. Michelle Obama also appeared at a recent architecture conference to share her thoughts on a few things. While you might think a conference architecture is an odd place for her to show up, our former First Lady used it as an opportunity to discuss the necessity of diverse perspectives in various fields.
She also spoke about what’s next for her since she’s no longer in the White House.
“One issue that I’m excited to keep working on is to help young girls around the world get an education,” Obama said. “Education, to my mind, is key to giving women the voice, the structure, the strategy, the tools to improve their conditions. Because if you change the life of a woman, you change the life of a community, a family, a nation.”
On the challenges of being a working mother.
“It’s not easy,” she said, “and it’s never going to be. The one thing I can say to working mothers out there: Don’t beat up on yourselves. What you are doing is hard, and we still don’t live in a society that supports it.”
She shared the story of returning to her position at the University of Chicago and not only asking for what she deserved salary wise but also requesting a schedule change that would allow her to be more available for her children. She said the experience taught her about the importance of using your influence to help others.
“If you have leverage, you have to push for the women who don’t,” she said. “We have to start asking for what we need, and then we need employers to be more open to what work-life balance can actually look like.”
On diversity in the workforce
“That’s not just the field of architecture,” Obama replied. “Look at law, look at science, look at so many professions. The struggle is still real. You can’t start recruiting from a pool that doesn’t exist. You have to build that pool, and you have to start at a young age. So many kids don’t even know what an architect is,” she added. “They don’t think about how buildings are built; they don’t know anything about developing or planning. I know I didn’t, and I was an educated kid. You have kids growing up in communities where people don’t even work, period, let alone as doctors or lawyers or architects. But that’s where all of you come in. You need to go to schools, neighborhoods, communities, any place where underrepresented minorities exist, and start talking. Start small. Make a friend.”
“I didn’t want to have tears in my eyes because people would swear I was crying because of the new president.”
On President Obama’s artistic side and the new Library
“I don’t get to work with them often but our architects are so much fun. The creative process—space, time—they think about things that we wouldn’t ever think of. We’re also closely considering the exterior, how it will relate to the community. The architects we’re working with are phenomenal; they’re listening, they’re doing their homework, they’re researching and starting to understand the South Side of Chicago.”
Vonier, the man hosting the event and interviewing Mrs. Obama reminded everyone that former President Barack Obama, once wanted to be an architect.
“Barack is an artist,” she shared, “though he tries to downplay it. He’s the kind of guy who says, ‘I don’t care what the living room looks like,’ and then has a thousand questions and opinions about everything. He’s someone with ideas, he’s someone who thinks big. That’s what architects do too, right?”
On her not running for president for the 50-11th time.
“It’s all well and good until you start running, and then the knives come out,” she said at the conference. “Politics is tough, and it’s hard on a family…I wouldn’t ask my children to do this again because, when you run for higher office, it’s not just you, it’s your whole family. Plus, there’s just so much more we can do outside of the office, because we won’t have the burden of political baggage.”