Eloquent, engaging and educational…an evening with Michelle Obama
I recently finished reading Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming. It is such a popular book for many reasons. I found the book to be a wonderful glimpse into the making of a black woman from the south side of Chicago. It also shed light on how a private family manages its daily life in a very public arena.
Both Obamas came from humble beginnings, from families who provided the love, the nurturing and the support needed to forge ahead into stable adulthood. It was their family values and strong work ethics that propelled them to the top echelons of Washington society. To be the first black president and the first black family in the White House presented its own challenges. They led by example and spread the message of hope for all Americans.
Michelle Obama implemented a number of strong social initiatives while in the White House to offer different segments of society a voice where everyone had the opportunity to engage in and spread the word of various helpful projects. I focused on one of her initiatives.
She undertook the planning and the developing of a “kitchen” garden of vegetables and herbs, managed and harvested by children. This idea took root after Michelle had a discussion with her doctor about her oldest daughter’s, Melia’s creeping Body Mass. While at the time this was not yet a concern as Melia was only ten years old, it still gave Michelle pause to evaluate her daughters’ eating habits and to be more vigilant about this. Exercise came later.
So, Michelle enlisted the family’s personal chef to develop nutritious menus with lots of vegetables, herbs and fruit for the family. After three months of this and a check-up later, Melia’s doctor was very pleased with her BM. Michelle saw success and an opportunity in this to plan and encourage her own extended family and friends to be more pro-active in what they ate.
While at the White House, she extended her belief and advocated healthy, nutritious menus and snacks for all children to combat child obesity and diabetes in America. This was a huge problem at the time. She helped organize school children to go to the White House to plant and harvest many types of vegetables. It took endless encouragement, focus and hard work for all involved to reap the benefits of their labour and to appreciate a healthier and more nutritious lifestyle.
By the time the Obamas left the White House, the garden was so successful that it was producing a few hundred pounds of food at every harvest, some of which was used in the White House kitchen and the rest was donated to several nearby soup kitchens. The garden continued to grow, educate and benefit many more children in the future.
That was not going to happen! A fact-check to the White House Nutrition Garden indicated that there have been no plans to plant new vegetables or herbs in the spring of 2019. In the first year of the current administration, some crops have been planted and harvested, but it died after that! There has been no interest in it and in fact, a new survey has shown that childhood obesity and diabetes have been on the rise again. It is very disappointing to see this far-reaching and worthwhile cause being allowed to wither and die.
Michelle Obama’s spoke at a public presentation in Toronto in early May. She was extremely well received with a standing ovation when she appeared on stage. She was warm, enthusiastic, engaging and very well spoken. She touched upon her hardships growing up black, even though it was in Chicago in a black community. Her parents pushed her to excel and reach for the stars, but she found that she always had to work harder, to be friendlier and more ambitious than her white friends. This carried through to the White House. While there, they had to be extra careful not to create scandals, or “screw up” in her own words, in any way because they would have been more scrutinized, vilified and shunned than if they were white. She said that they felt that they were constantly under the microscope and constantly evaluated. They were both very protective of their daughters and aimed to create as normal a life as possible for the family under the circumstances. That is the reason why her mother agreed to move into the White House. She provided the security, guidance and consistency her daughters needed while they were either travelling or attending to official business.
Michelle Obama’s conversational tone, her warmth, her genuine spirit, her honesty and humour came through throughout the entire presentation.
She is a sincere, down-to-earth woman who cares very much for her family and for her country. It was a pleasure to read her book, as well as a pleasure to hear her thoughts at the speaking engagement.
Here is a link to the full story on “How to raise a Smart Black Woman” which is an excellent followup to reading Obama’s book, Becoming: