5 Takeaways From Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s New Netflix Documentary, ‘Becoming’

In her final speech as first lady, Michelle Obama honored the 2017 School Counselor of the Year at the White House and famously said, 

“I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? 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. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”

Since then, Obama has written her memoir, New York Times bestseller Becoming and headlined a sold-out stadium book tour. She kept her promise to young Americans and met with students around the country as she toured. The first week of May Obama’s Netflix documentary, bearing the same name as her memoir, premiered. It is a visual accompaniment to Obama’s book, but it also follows her on tour and documents her discussions with students around the country. Below are a few insights and pieces of advice the former first lady imparts in her new documentary, Becoming:

Your Success Starts With How You See Yourself  

“How did you, as a black woman, persevere through invisibility?”a student asked Obama. She responded, 

“For me, I never felt invisible. And I think in thinking through my story about why I do not now feel invisible I think it’s because my parents always made me feel visible. It came from the simple truth, not what was going on in the world, but what was going on at my dinner table…but that invisibility; it starts here (Obama gestures to her heart). We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal, to start feeling seen. We’re far from it. Time will not allow it. It’s not going to happen with one president, one vote. So you have got to find the tools within yourself to feel visible and to use your voice.” 

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In a meeting with a different group of students, one named Shayla Allen asked, “How do you avoid just becoming a number?” Obama responded, “I think what makes you more than a stat is once you see yourself as more than a stat. Who are you? What do you care about? What brings you joy? And I hope my story urges you to see the power of your story, and to own that.”

Your Story Is Your Strength 

At yet another high school, one employee said some of the young women in attendance had asked, “Why me?” Obama asked which young women had asked themselves that question. Graduating senior Elizabeth Cervantes said there are students who are president of numerous clubs at the school and have high SAT and ACT scores, and she simply fulfills her academic obligations and only stays for one club, Latinos Unidos, then she goes to work. Obama asked Cervantes why she works. She said her father had an accident and can’t work like he used to, she needed to help and provide for her family. “I have three little brothers, everything I do is for them,” Cervantes said. “I go to work and I bring them food.” “And she wonders why she’s here,” said Obama. “That story, with all the highs and lows, and what seems so ordinary, and what seems like nothing to you, is your power.”

Marrying Barack Obama Forced Her To Have A Clear Vision For Her Career 

On the Becoming tour, journalist Gayle King moderated a conversation with the former first lady when the topic turned to when she first met her future husband. Obama went on to describe her immediate attraction to the deep-voiced lawyer, and knew he had ambitions to work on issues like income inequality and wanted to devote himself to public service in a major way. “He was very different, and he was different for me. He challenged me in different ways,” Obama explained. “I knew he was a tsunami, coming after me and if I didn’t get my act together, I would be swept up. I didn’t want to just be an appendage to his dreams. So that forced me to work, and think, and make decisions like leaving law.” 

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Obama elaborated on her marriage as a montage of photos from their courtship, their wedding and their marriage scrolled through the background. “My relationship with Barack was all about our partnership, if I was going to have an equal voice with this very opinionated man, I had to get myself up. I had to set myself off to a place where I was confident I was going to be his equal,” she said. 

Happiness Is Not Dependent On A Partner

The marriage started to strain when Sasha and Malia were born. Obama felt she had to dial back her ambitions when she became a mother, because she didn’t feel like she could do both. It led the first couple to counseling. “Counseling helped me to look at, how do I take control of my own happiness within our marriage?” King asked Obama if she felt the counseling helped, “One of the things I learned that helped me an I think helped our marriage was that my happiness is not dependent on him making me happy,” she said. It helped Obama realize part of her resentment towards her husband was his ability to prioritize himself in the marriage in a way she felt she could not. “We have babies and he was at the gym. I was like, ‘How do you find time to work out?’ So let me stop being mad at him for going to the gym and let me get to the gym.” 

Let Your Job And Your Life Speak For Itself 

On a tour stop in Chandler, AZ Obama met with group of Native American college students and asked about the high and lows of their lives, “What are you looking forward to in life? And what brings you down?” she asked. One student responded that he sees Trump hats in class every day, and that has a subconscious impact on his psyche that he said was difficult to describe. He then asked Obama if she had any advice for them on how to navigate this environment. Obama said, 

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“I can’t imagine how tough it must be for you all, and I want you guys to have perspective as you’re going through it, and not let this Time shape what will be. So you’re in school, be in school. Get your freaking education. You know Barack and I, all through this presidency through the lies and the stuff they said about us all we could do is wake up every day and do our jobs. And let our jobs and our lives speak for itself.”


Photo Source: Netflix

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