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Michelle Obama

Gennaio 2019
Nel clima di nervosismo e polarizzazione politica in cui viviamo, il messaggio che trasmette l’ex first lady degli Stati Uniti nei suoi interventi pubblici e nella recente autobiografia è un esempio di superazione personale e un modello di convivenza da seguire.

di Margaret Stone

File audio:

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Becoming by Michelle Obama

Inspiration is invaluable. But some people still think that a price tag can be put on it – upwards of sixty million dollars, in fact! That is the sum reportedly placed on the dual book deal that Barack and Michelle Obama negotiated for their memoirs. Michelle’s Becoming has come first, and it has been a huge success. This is no surprise, as her story is what you might call “an American classic.” It describes how an intelligent and determined African-American woman from a working-class background defeated discrimination to become a lawyer. It also reveals how she supported and actively helped her husband to the White House, while they brought up their two children. “I hope it inspires readers to find the courage to become whoever they aspire to be”, she said of her book.


Forget Claire Underwood from Netflix series House of Cards, most first ladies in US history have been little more than decorative figures standing next to powerful men. Sure, Hillary Clinton was ambitious and outspoken, and Jacqueline Kennedy was a fashion icon, but never, since Eleanor Roosevelt during the Second World War, has a first lady been so inspiring and attracted so much interest as Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama (American accent):

In this country plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about.


Born in January 1964, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s South Shore neighbourhood. Her father was a city water plant employee and her mother was a secretary. Michelle and her older brother learned to read at an early age, and excelled at school. It’s no wonder then that she regards education as not only a right but also a duty:

Michelle Obama:

So don’t be afraid. You hear me? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear.


It was not easy for Michelle growing up. In her memoir she recounts how she was discouraged at school from applying to Princeton University. Yet not only did she attend and graduate from the prestigious university, she went on to study law at Harvard. Michelle experienced many setbacks, but her belief in herself and in the power of hard work kept her going.

Michelle Obama:

You have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: this right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.


After Harvard, Michelle returned to Chicago to work at a law firm. There, she was assigned as mentor to a young associate named Barack Obama. When he asked her out, she refused at first, considering it improper – but three years later they got married. Both before and during her time as First Lady, Michelle was involved in numerous non-profit organisations, engaged in activism and gave motivational speeches. One initiative she has been linked to is Reach Higher, which encourages young students to continue their education beyond high school:

Michelle Obama:

We wanted to change the conversation around what it means and what it takes to be a success in this country. Because let’s be honest, if we’re always shining the spotlight on professional athletes or recording artists or Hollywood celebrities, if those are the only achievements we celebrate, then why would we ever think kids would see college as a priority? So we decided to flip the script and shine a big, bright spotlight on all things educational.


Despite their many responsibilities, both Michelle and Barack Obama have always made clear that their main priority is their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, born in 1998 and 2001 respectively.

Michelle Obama:

With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.


There has been much speculation on Michelle Obama herself running for president in 2020, rumors that she has been quick to dismiss. She simply does not want the job, she has said. Yet she is extremely vocal in encouraging people to get involved in the political process, by exercising their right to vote.

Michelle Obama:

I get it. I get being busy. I definitely get feeling frustrated. Because, believe me, I am frustrated too. I am sick of all the chaos and the nastiness of our politics. It’s exhausting, and frankly, it’s depressing. So I understand wanting to shut it all out and just go on and just try to live your life, take care of your family in peace. But here’s the problem: democracy continues with or without you. 

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When they go low, we go high. Quando loro si abbassano, noi ci eleviamo. Con questa frase Michelle Obama offre un’immagine molto grafica dell’atteggiamento che vuole trasmettere alle sue figlie: to go low è una variazione di to lower oneself, cioè ‘abbassarsi’, ‘degradarsi’. Secondo l’ex first lady, se gli altri iniziano a screditare e abbassano il tono del dibattito pubblico, le sue figlie devono sforzarsi per non cadere nella trappola ed ‘elevarsi’ al di sopra di questo livello.