tv After Words CSPAN May 25, 2015 8:30pm-9:30pm EDT
he lessons at an early stage is huge. all five are scheduled at different sizes and numbers of sites to be done by september of this year. i think it is going to be great to see the operation al uses. many are in the build out stage now. i am looking forward to seeing the real live uses of the network. the art of the possible and innovation that will happen in public safety when people have access to broadband in their every day role as a police officer firefighter or paramedic will be tremendous and showing that to other first responders across the country and giving examples whether it is video or talking to first responders utilizing the technology today is going to be a great opportunity to see what the possibilities are. >> host: why are you acting executive director? >> guest: in the government when people leave positions and
others like myself, it takes time to work through the process of vetting and interviewing to get to a permanent position. we are far along in the process i can say, from my perspective and we will see what happens in the near future. >> host: t.j. kennedy is the acting director of firstnet. thank you. >> and you are watching booktv on c-span2 television for serious readers. this memorial day evening here is our prime time lineup. we are featuring books on the first lady's beginning with a look at michelle obama. this is a new book out by peter slevin. after that a book featured by c-span based on the television series on the first ladies we did last year. and finally kissing cousins, a look at elenore roosevelt and
relationship. >> and now on booktv's afterwards peter slevin discusses the life of first lady michelle obama from her childhood to the whitehouse. he is interviewed by cassandra clayton at the university of maryland's philip merrill college of journalism. >> host: peter slevin thank you for joining us to talk about your new book, "michelle obama: a life." >> guest: thank you. it is great to be here. >> host: this is the story of the women you call the most unlikely first lady in modern history. it isn't the story of her life but a story of modern american history. did you set out to tell the story in that context or did it develop as you found out more about her background and themes emerged? >> guest: i covered the obama's for the "washington post" for a
while while i lived in chicago. i found her trojectory is fascinating and felt it was worth telling a story where she is at the center of her own narrative not just the wife of. when i embarked i wanted to see where she was coming from and that meant getting into her family history, and chicago history and the history she lived. >> host: chicago ends up being a major player almost a character in her story. looking at the life of her father whom she called her north star even after he had died what was it about her parents her father in particular, that gave her that outlook on her values?
>> guest: many people remember in the 2008 campaign she would say of her father he is the voice i hear inside my head when i ask myself if i am making a good decision. frazier robinson was born in 1935 in chicago with his father coming from north of the great migration. he went to a local high school was in the army, he was a boxer and swimmer and he was the heart and soul of his family. he was the oldest brother kind, worked as the democratic presti prestinct capital. he shared values as of course did her mother. and she was close to her father
up until his death. >> host: and he suffered many years from ms. how did seeing him get up and go to work every day in that state affect her? >> guest: that is right. it is something michelle obama talks about. she said i never saw my father run and she and craig her older brother watched their father get up every day and go and work at the city water plant even though he had a worsening case of ms. and she admired his determination his pride in his work and how he just never quit. >> host: she and her older brother craig group in a family where they seemed to have a happy home life. they were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.
give us a sense of what the home life was like. >> guest: sure. michelle obama says the bungalow where they lived -- >> host: how many bedrooms? >> guest: it was one bedroom. very small. they lived a modest existence. her mother was a stay at home mom until craig and her were in high school. but she said that bungalow is where here life happened. they live upstairs from her mother's aunt and uncle who took them in. it was a peaceable integrated part of chicago. it was a place where white blight was underway families were strong they could walk and ride their bike to places.
this was in the '60s and early '70s. >> host: you mentioned frazier came up as part of the migration. talk about the credo that came with those families that came up from the south. they had a certain expectation for their children. not very much just do better. >> guest: a credo is the right way to look at it. i talked to classmates of frazier robinson and relatives of hers that told the same story. parents, cousins, aunts and uncles came to chicago in search of a world that was more fair more free for african-americans and where there was more opportunity. and as one of frazier robinson's
friends said frazier was about the business of being business. you get on with it you do your work you stick to your knitting and do a little better than your parents and with luck the kids do better than you. >> host: you say in the book all of these parents had a larger message fundamental to their upbringing rooted into paradox of contradicted ideas but the playing field wasn't level but there was the conviction a combination of love, support, purseersevereance and upbringing lived on. >> guest: i heard that from the governor of massachusetts who grew up on the south side of chicago and he talked about the
lessons he learned and the fundamental message of getting on with it but at the same time parents, in his case a grandmother who had endured racial hostility for saying it exist, it is important to know it exist, but it will not stop you, do not let it stop you. you can still be whatever you want. and i think about that with michelle obama's paternal grandfather. he came from georgetown south carolina and came to better himself not seeing much of a future for a man like him in south carolina. he was mindful he didn't have the opportunity so many white people had done. if my grandfather was born white we would have have been a bank president. he worked in the post office -- >> host: which was a good job.
>> guest: the federal jobs was a way in for many african-americans. he went into the army that was segregated until 1948 and then went to the post office. he shared the lessons he had developed over time. he said it is a little unfair right about now but remember your destiny was not written the day you were born. go out there get on with it and you can be anyone you want to be. and michelle obama tells that story and talks about that. >> host: how much did racial conflict racism racial deprivation affect her childhood? even at the playground of rainbow beach. >> guest: rainbow beach was the public beach on lake michigan not far from where the robinson's lived on the south shore. in the '60s there was racial
competition for the beach. there was a riot of course but the riot didn't turn out well. it wasn't so much a riot but a disturbance prompted and i think the record would show by white people in chicago were let's say frustrated, that black people were encroaching on what they considered their territory. chicago was changing by the time michelle obama was coming up it is important to note that. rainbow beach was a place she could ride on her bike. there was a city park and camp she attended. there is no question that michelle obama knew about racial hostility but she did not experience it in the same way her parent and grandparents did. her mother went to a segregated school born in 1937. her experiences were different
than her parents. >> host: and the parents did a lot to create a safe haven. her brother said they gave us a head start making us feel con confidant and michelle obama was confidant and competitive. >> guest: her mother joked i think she raised herself from the time she was eight years old. they had a warm and embracing family. craig has spoken about this. michelele spoke about this. they spent time with the extended family but she went to the neighborhood school as did craig and both her parents were involved and connected there. her father did shiftwork and had a great deal of time for his
kids. he poured enormious energy into michelle and craig. >> host: tell us about michelle that missed out on the champion award? >> guest: she was at rainbow beach and told you would be the best camper if only you didn't have the tongue you had. >> host: what did she learn from that? >> guest: maybe to bite her tongue a little perhaps. she liked being on top of things. in charge of things. she was very determined and talks about how hard she worked to get a head. she went to a magnet school. >> host: i wanted to talk about that too. she had to travel across town to get to brittany young when she went there.
that says a lot about how chicago was changing during that time. >> guest: she graduated in 1981 travelling an hour and a half each day. she would take the bus south away from the school so she could get a seat on the northbound bus and study on her way. she had a best friend in high school named santina jackson. >> host: we have heard that name before. >> guest: her father was reverend jesse jackson. they were close in the honor society at whitney young magnet school. michelle is engaged in school and she was the senior class treasurer and danced there. it was an interesting world. i spoke with classmates and they described it as an oasis in a city that was still very
racially segregated. >> host: when her older brother craig had a big decision to make about going off to college. he was an accomplished basketball player and got lots of offers from schools that were going to pay the way. but he wanted to go to princeton. explain that decision that craig made to go to princeton even though there was that matter of money. how was that a pivotal decision the family made? >> reporter: this was in 1979, craig was graduating from high school. he had an offer from the university of washington going to pay his way. he was accepted at princeton where the family would have to pay some of the bills and he would have to earn money on the side to get to go to princeton. and he had a conversation with his father who was sitting at the kitchen table and his mother
who was washing dishes and talking it over with his dad. he said dad, i think i might dwi the university of washington. and his father didn't come down on him, just said well i would be disappointed if you made a decision like this based on money. and craig said containing himself, well i will think about that. but he was elated because he wanted to go to princeton. and he said it was the most generous act of kindness he had seen in his life. we went to princeton and his parents paid the difference, sometimes with a credit card, and he loved being there. and he just has felt so grateful every since it is a story he does tell. >> host: and michelle decides i would like to go to princeton too, perhaps, but at the time her counselors at whitney young
said your grades and scores were too low and her sights were too high. how did she react to that? >> guest: she looked at craig and said if craig robinson can get into princeton i will show them and get into there. the counselors at whitney young said you might think more modestly about where you can go. she applyiedapplied, wrote an essay and as her mother said talked her way in. >> host: she told the story about the grades and scores not being what she hoped they were. this is the era of affirm action but you say she argued her own case. >> guest: she had done well at
school. and with so many african-american students getting access she went to princeton and did well there. >> host: was she happy at princeton princeton? >> guest: it was an interesting remark at maya angelo's funeral she talked about what it was like to be on the campaign trail who she was criticized and mentioned a feeling of loneliness. she had a struggle there at 17 and worked her way through with friends and discipline. >> host: how did the affirmative action affect her? the sense of living in two
worlds and being judged as someone other than just michelle? >> guest: she said princeton made me more aware of my blackness than other before in chicago. and that was because of the nature of princeton where black students were the minority and we should remember that there were not so many women and also class was a big question. michelle said i got to princeton and saw kids with bmw. i didn't know adults with vehicles like that. it was place where many black students felt slightly unwelcomed and this was something she was very aware of it. >> host: and even from michelle's first days on campus in her dorm her first roommate. >> guest: that is a remarkable story having to do with the
mother of her freshman roommate. this student catherine donnelly, and this is a story she herself tells with a grin at this point as you can imagine. she is in the dorm room. everybody is moving in and craig robinson shows up saying is my sister around and she wasn't. and catherine donnelly went up to see her mother and said guess what i have an african-american roommate and her mother went ballistic and tried to get her daughter pulled. she complained saying my daughter didn't come to school to princeton to live with a black student. princeton didn't move it but it was a dramatic sign of the times. >> host: going back to her senior thesis she designed a survey and sent it to 400 black
princeton alumni. what was she trying to figure out with this and what was she struggling with blacks and privilege? >> guest: the thesis got so much attention. and a cut out card board was michelle obama lived a black life at princeton and all she thought about was race and you might remember williams saying she is stokely carmichael in a dress. i was interested in looking at the thesis to see what questions were on her mind and what were her forming moments. i thought it was interesting. the question she was asking was what did it mean to african-americans to rise to the elite in terms of how they saw other black people. so she had some ideas about
solidarity perhaps or maybe distance, if you rose in terms of class, as of course she would compared with many of the african-american friends who didn't go to princeton and she left behind who didn't have those opportunities. she explored that in her thesis and it became those questions that remained central to her thinking at harvard law school and today. >> host: and going on to harvard law school it did seem that maybe she was older, more confidant but she seemed to find her stride there and find a community there. maybe that was the difference. what seemed to make harvard law a better experience than princeton? >> guest: i think it was a challenging time at harvard. as elina kaygan race was a big
issue at harvard at the time. many of her friends had discussions about situations of obligation where her friend said we were asking questions not about what it means to be a lawyer but a black lawyer. what can the law accomplish in terms of changing the country for better. it had been 30 years since brown verses board of education. but the country had hardly overcome its racial past. so they were asking what role they could fulfill as they climbed in the society and into the elite what should they do with their lives to have purpose. they should not make a lot of money and sort of forget.
>> host: and michelle even at harvard law school tried to make a difference tried to change things on the ground talk a little about that. >> guest: she was very active at harvard law school which is no feat because of how challenging it is to be studying there. she worked in the legal aid bureau where she and other students worked as volunteer lawyers for clients in need. she handled domestic cases for example. she would work on a housing case where someone was being evicted perhaps and she was according to her mentor at the time tenacious about that. she was also working with a couple of her friends to make the alumni gathering the black association gathering, a little more purposeful. not just a recruiting binge.
in fact, it was where there could be discussions like the ones they are having in the basement offices of the association, where they were asking how can we do well that is fine but how can we do the right thing/do good. >> host: after she left harvard law and she was highly recruited she went back to chicago and chose corporate law at a white shoe firm. did that decision surprise people that knew her? her family members? >> guest: i think she faced a real delima. she wasn't sure what she wanted to do. she later said had she not had such extensive student debt from princeton and harvard she might have gone directly to a non-profit but she thought this was a place she could pay off bills and see what issues
connected to her. >> host: so she did the corporate law thing for a while. how was chicago different once she came back in the late 1980s. >> guest: such an important question. the city had been changing. it changed from her grandparent's lives and when hader parents were coming up. the most important thing in '88 was the city elected a black mayor herald washington. there were opportunities that came with the changing time one of which was law firms like sydney and austin wanted to make sure they had women and minorities on the staff and who were representing clients and were available. not just because it was the right thing to do although that would make a lot of sense but in fact as a business model it was important to have women and
she says when i first met him i fell in deep lust. >> exactly right. she had also toldmer mother that summer i'm done with men for now. >> host: but they were from very different backgrounds and different temperments. even. what attracted them to each other? let's start with him. what did he see in michelle? >> guest: well he was dazzled by her beauty, he told his associates. and he was struck by her humor. they laughed at the same things. they -- i think that's probably true to this day according to their friends. great senses of humor.
he also has written that he admired michelle's rootedness, the fact she was anchored in chicago and anchored on the south side and had this close family. >> host: so different for him. >> guest: his family roots were scattered to at the four wind are winds and that appealed to him as well. >> host: what did she see in him other than the handsome hot shot? >> guest: she talk a little bit later, after they were married -- she said she admired that he could take a few risks among other things, that in fact he had a large kind of vision and wasn't wasn't quite -- wasn't quitely the people that worked at the law firm with her but like other guys, and she was intrigued by him. she said there was a moment during the campaign when she fell in love with him the
moment when he took her along to a basement of a church in chicago, where he spoke with some of the community members some of the chicagoans with whom he had worked as a community organizer before he had gone off to law school, and she said the talking about the world as it is and as it should be and how we can't give up. got to get from one to the other. she said she saw his values that day and saw his passion and saw this is a guy i can believe in. >> host: when michelle took bay rock -- barack home to meetly family he brother said we gave them a month tops. >> guest: it was less about broke barack -- barack obama that been michelle. craig said michelle had high
standards, and she was not going to just kind of wait around for somebody who didn't quite measure up. but they by all accounts were very impress width barack obama and very quickly. her mother and her brother. >> host: talk about her mother, marion who actually said she was a little concerned about barack -- >> guest: his lineage. he said in an interview in 2004 that she had a little by of a concern because barack obama had a white mother and black father and the south it might be difficult for their future kids. she came to adore him and came to adore him quickly. >> host: barack has said it wasn't until he met michelle's family that he began to understand her. so what was he seeing in that household, then? what did he see and feel there and connect to and understand?
>> guest: he felt something very warm very positive, and very close. if you remember his upbringing, his father and mother split when barack was very, very young. he only saw his father once more. bay rock lived in indonesia with his mother and her second husband. went back to hawai'i and lived with hi grandparents and fell a little bit all over the place inch michelle's familiar live he felt something that was strong and good and kind of fun also. >> host: kind of fun. but then when michelle's father died after the decades long battle with multiple score low sis -- multiple sclerosis how did that cement a relationship with bay rock? >> guest: there was a moment that he writes about, barack obama does.
that as face 'er robinson bin was being lowered into this grave, he realized he was part of the family, close to michelle it was feeling right. and and he writes he would take care of her. >> host: brings tears to my eyes. but not so fast, barack. he was dragging his feet a little bit about actually getting married. >> guest: right. he tells this great story of how michelle was ready to be married. he had graduated from harvard law school by this time, elected president of the harvard law review was studying for the bar, but one little i he not dotted was the i in the middle of marriage. and he and michelle were out to a dinner to celebrate his work on the bar exam, and in his telling, michelle is haranguing him about marriage and it's time to get on with it. now is the time, and barack
would say what's a piece of paper, marriage -- >> host: what's a piece of paper. >> guest: and as anyone who knew michelle robinson could tell him, that argument wasn't going to do too far but the owned the dinner dessert came with an engagement ring, and baroque says he said to her that shut you up, didn't it? >> host: they're show cute together. after the marriage, a time for some soul searching for both of them. michelleed she wanted to leave the law firm, and took a job the mayor's office, who was now a new mayor. what was going on in her head at this time? why leave a great job. >> guest: she said it didn't make her happy. one of the reasons she was asking that question is that a close friend of hers from princeton had died rather
suddenly of cancer, and michelle obama asked herself do i -- if i were to die tomorrow would i be dying happy? is this how i would want to feel i had spent my life? the answer was no, it wasn't satisfying. she would go up and stan in the window of this great office tower in downtown chicago and feel literally and figuratively, i can't even see my old neighborhood elm she thought let me try other things, and she applied at city hall, where her resume found its way to one valerie jarred whose name we now know as presidential counselor and first she had spoken with susan schur who would become michelle's chief of staff in the white house but susan schur was a lawyer, and the corporation coup's office in city hall, and michelle said i don't want to be a lawyer. i'm done with that. so susan passed her to valerie and she worked in community development for a couple of
years. >> host: and at the same time, barack obama is starting to think about his own future in politics. he has written rather than stay and get a job get rich and get out, chose to stay. >> guest: they did. i think that's one of the most intriguing periodness their lives, the 1990s. a young couple, don't have children yet and made a series of decisions that resonate to this day and it had to do exactly as you said, with not getting out or moving up and moving away from the issues that animate them but in fact digging in and making a difference, and so michelle went from the law firm to city hall, which was also unsatisfying to the job that she said made her happiest in her life, and that was running a program call public allies which was an americore
program, leadership training project. she said it was the first thing spirally her own and in that job she recruited young people, very diverse array of young people, and guided them into internships for nonprofits and into city agencies and taught them to give back the way she felt she was giving back. >> host: that's a great job for her. she loved it. but then barack is talking more and more about doing something with politics. she is just not sure about that. as we followed his -- pretty familiar with the arc of his political story but along the way, at various points, michelle has been very ambivalent and at one point even said to him barack this business is not noble. how did she reconcile her misgivings with ultimately supporting him? >> guest: that's right. so barack entered politics in
the illinois state senate and would commute to springfield every week when the legislature was in session and he did that job for a very long time, before he entered national politics. he was very committed to it, and there were -- michelle just was not sure that politics not only was noble, she wasn't sure it did all that much good for was really what barack obama could achieve. so as a supremely talented man and as someone in whom she believed she just really wondered whether that was to best use of his talent, not to mention the fact he was gone a lot and didn't pay much. >> host: he was gone a lot at a time whether they just had their first child malia and then later sasha. and it sounds in your book that there was a great deal of strain in the marriage at that time. was there ever any sort of consideration that, okay,
enough we're not going to go through with it, or for sure they were going to tough it out which they did. >> guest: that not something i know. i don't know how dark their problems became. what we do know is the story that barack himself told about the marriage, where he wasn't as present in the relationship -- >> host: he owned up to it. >> guest: he has. he said he was a terribly ambitious map and was working at the university of chicago law school teaching constitutional law, and he was doing some lawyering on the side and he was state legislator. he had written a book. he had an awful lot of things he wanted to do, and it took michelle pointing things out to him for him to realize that man he needed to do just a little bit more around the house, for one thing and to respect michelle obama's ambitions her professional ambitions a little more than he did. >> host: she actually ended up
giving up on her professional ambitions to become a political spouse. let talk a little bit about the role michelle has played for him as a wife, a friend, and an adviser. what sense do you have that she gives him a lot of advice or he has good political instincts. >> guest: he said he listened to michelle who is very much a partner in his enterprise, not the copresident idea. that not a role she envisioned for herself-not a role she wants to play. but people around them say that -- one friend dahl her the most do what is right person in his circle. somebody else called her true north, that same description he used before. but she could be counted on to recognize what mattered to
people. she has a very good instinct for people. >> host: i said to in the book if barack is a helium balloon she is the string. >> guest: in the seasons keeping hem grounded. think about the speech in 2004 at the democratic national convention he red states, blue states where people were just raving about barack obama -- >> host: that's when he was running for u.s. senator. >> guest: about to be and he is elected later that year and just a hot commodity and michelle was very good then and i think many people say it is a role she has continued to play. at saying, first of all he is just man and done pick up his socks. >> host: we rather about the dirty socks. >> guest: she got some criticism for that, for kind of trying to cut him down a little bit. anybody who could imagine i could emass calculate barack obama doesn't know barack obama very well. but she also said she wanted
also to lower expectations. people were -- so many supporters were seeing barack obama as the man who was going to save the nation, do she dramatic things and she said, let's please not put all that responsibility at this one young man's feet. so there's a groundedness to her that many friends say has been very valuable to barack obama. >> some made a serious misstep that came to define for many this image of michelle. campaigning in milwaukee, barack was doing quite well in the primaries but she said, for the first time in my adult life i am proud of my country. went on to say, not just because barack is doing well, but i think people are hungry for change. her critics latched on to the middle part of that, for the
first time i'm proud of my country. >> guest: and she is hearing about is to this day. people say how could you not be proud of your country? you went to princeton and harvard. look you got to live? how could anybody say that? really clear sign of the polarization of the country at the time, because of course, an awful lot of people said issue get that. a black man named practice barack hussein obama is in in iowa and is winning ten caucuses and primaries in a row, we ought to feel good about things. i found it interesting in working on the book, colin powell the first african-american chairman of the joint keeves of staff writes in his book that being in the army helped me love my country. the fact is we have a troubled history of race regs relations in this country and it was surprise to a lot of people that guess what, barack obama was on his way to the white house. >> oo and michelle came in as
the first lady, and we have gotten used do seeing her not just at state functions but on youtube, dancing with jimmy fallon she is really made a name for herself as very likeable very approachable. but still there's that other part of the country that sees her through a different lens. that is a caricature that is racialized cartoons are mean and hurtful. how does michelle manage that? how does she react? is there any sense it's hurtful? >> guest: there are a couple of ways to look that. think become to the criticism she got on the campaign trail after those remarks about being proud of her country for the first time, and her speeches on the campaign trail where she talked about how the playing field is not level the deck is
a little stacked. she felt hurt by the criticism that people weren't understanding her. she felt, and she was also slightly mortified maybe she was hurting her husband's campaign. so she reeled in -- she changed her tone a bit. she re-emerged at the democratic national convention her numbers went rocketing skyward and never came down. fast forward to the kind of criticism that she gets now -- of course she gets criticism but really just the attacks that are racial. she has not spoken publicly about them, and she frankly has dealt with this with just such a great deal of grace. yet when you think about the kinds of things people say about her. when elected officials comment on her body, when elected officials share e-mails that are
grotesque caricature who she is and are connected to race, it's remarkable. >> host: i do wonder how she protects her children from that. once she got into the white house she declared she was going to be mom in chief after so many people had maybe greater expectations. is she going to be a style maven like jackie kennedy involved in policy like hillary clinton? a champion for causes like eleanor roosevelt? no going to be mom in chief and pick up a couple of things there. she has managed to really raise those kids -- they seem normal, they have a lot of privacy and they do seem like good kids. >> guest: isn't that interesting how people project not just on to him so many expectations on to her. she did good to princeton and
harvard show will do policy, and she is a terrific speaker. she'll do that. she will do more, and michelle says my first job here is to make sure my girls are in a good place. that was her first goal. and they do live in this -- the obamas live in a ridiculous world. it's bizarre the bubble they live in. and they have worked very, very hard to make malia and sasha's world just a little bit more normal. >> host: it does feel as though this has been -- despite all the bitterness and partisanship outside the bubble they've lived a pretty happy life as a family in the white house. >> guest: they talk about that. they talk about how the is like living above the store where barack obama traveled so much during his campaigns and worked so hard to get elected and was commuting to springfield and after all michelle obama was driving the carpool and looking after the girls while he was
gone. now they're in one place and mrs. robinson is there after all, and they do talk about how much it means to them, at least to be centered. >> host: now michelle has been very involved in some high-profile campaigns. the "let's move." worked with military families, helping kid goes to college. she has been the farc plate, mixing the -- the fashion plate mixing designers with off the rack clothing. what is really closest to her heart ande what will she be remembered for? >> guest: that's a great question. the legacy is still being made. she'll only be 53 when they leave the white house in 2017. i do think it's interesting to connect what she is doing in her policy initiatives with where she grew up, the lessons she learn from home, the experiences she had along the way. if you think about her most
recent efforts which are on higher education it is about encouraging disadvantaged children to get on with college and to find a way to get further training. if you think about the school nutrition program of course she wants all kids to be healthier but if you think about who buys the lunches that of course are such a subject of controversy 70% of those lunches are bought by kids who cannot afford to pay full price. and if you think of her moaner toking program and especially her message. this is where her legacy will come in. her message is, look at the power of my trajectory and barack obama's trajectory some believe in yourselves, believe now can do it, stick with and it you'll make it. when you think about this -- this get back to where we started this conversation -- that was the lesson she heard. that was the message she heard from marion robinson and frasier robinson back home. >> host: she talk to a lot of school kids, college kids, and
reiterates that message over and over again. too you think it's being heard and accepted or are barack and michelle really exceptional? of. >> guest: of course they are exceptional. where they are and what they hey achieved. not everybody can live her narrative but for the book i traveled around the country and watched her in action and i calls talked with the kids who listened to her. to a person they said this is great. she cares about us shep believes in us. we are going to try harder. and sounds corny but it is really connecting her message. >> host: connecting. she has come into washington, she has out in the country the -- this cadre of supporters, black women in particular who will say michelle, we got your back. we don't care what other people say, we've got your back. has that been kind of
extraordinary to see what she has been able to do to empower and to give a sense of confidence and that support from black women around the country? the book i draw a contrast and talk about a couple of different places she spoke in 2012 during the campaign and one is a luncheon in maine where are lobster is served and she rouses the crowd to practically pa rocks simms of enthusiasm, and then just appose that of a meeting with black women on the south side of chicago where "a racen in the sun" is set. at the very time that michelle's parents were living in woodlawn, "a racen in the sun" was set there. she called that one thereof great american plays itch went to a meeting in west woodlawn and in contrast to the gathering
in maine or a gathering in manhattan not long before, the-each woman would lock the door behind them to make sure nobody could get in, and they came to listen to michelle making a pitch to help elect -- re-elect in this case -- barack obama, and i talked with women in that room, and they have such faith in michelle obama and it was so wonderful to them that they could see someone in the white house who looked like them something that few of them ever imagine keyed be -- imagined could be possible, and i they said we have her back. one woman said remember we shen put her arm crowned the queen and people credit seated her. it's a very natural michelle obama gesture. and she is embracing. his woman said she should put her am around the queen again get up and get out and be exactly who she wants to be. >> host: kind of interesting you brought that up about her
actually hugging the queen. chev is known to give people hugs and she has this aura of openness but she doesn't give a lot of interviews, and you didn't get to interview her for this book. i wonder how you felt you got to know her. what was the key to understanding her, and is there sort of this little wall there? despite all the openness, there's a wall with michelle. >> guest: i think this is not unique to michelle obama as first lady, but it is very clear that she is disciplined and she controls her conditions as best she can. she chooses exactly where she will go, and to whom she will grant interviews, to try to develop a true portrait of her. i was lucky for oning there to have a lot of time. i worked on this for more than four years and there were dozens and dozens of people who trust
meds to tell their story there were mentors friends from different parts of her life, relatives. i also was thrilled to discover that michelle obama even though she doesn't grant vary many interviews to the reporters who cover her she gives many, many speeches. she does lots of qs and a's and i read hundreds of thousands of words michelle obama has wherein and spoken, and i trade to have her voice carry the book. the book opens with michelle talking to high school kids and ends with her talking at maya angelou's memorial service. >> host: she had to use her voice from the bully pulpit but some of her critics not from the far right but even what you consider her side of the aisle
says she is -- could she have done more? >> guest: i think that is one of the enduring questions of michelle obama's time in the white house? could she do more? she has critics from women to her left -- that's a bit simplistic -- who say couldn't she be more activist, speak out more? and i think it would be very interesting city not only what she does in this rather freer time that she and the president have left, she is already speaking out more than she felt comfortable speaking out in the first term but especially what the she does when she leaves. >> host: what do you think? >> guest: i believe her when she says she is not entirely sure. he is doing some writing. she also -- >> host: writing her own autobiography -- >> guest: i'm not sure what she will do with her writing a memoir.
she has made clear she intends to continue to work on education, and remembering how important education was to her own life and the messages she heard and the messages she is sharing with kids now. she calls education the most important civil rights challenge of our time, and she expects to keep working on that. >> host: and that speech goes back to her own roots the importance of education with the children of the great migration and on to her generation. so that would be a wonderful cause for her to maintain. some people say oh, she should get into politics. following on the footsteps of hillary clinton. do you see any chance michelle obama would run for political office. >> guest: not only has she said no, barack obama was asked what if you hear ten years from now your wife was in politic can she said i think she would have been -- i would conclude she had
been abducted by aliens. so it does not look to be in the cards. >> host: do you feel on the campaign trail though, perhaps for hillary clinton? >> guest: she hasn't tipped her hand on that but i think it's fair to say that she and barack obama are going to want to see a democrat elected and not to have such important things, things they care about -- >> host: solidify the legacy. >> guest: she is a terrific fundraiser. she has raid millions of dollars for the democratic party and is in great demand as a speaker. >> host: one thing that you mentioned a night when she was the main speaker at the democratic national convention in 2012, and i remember watching that and she came out on stage in charlotte and her dress was shiny and perfect her hair was shiny and perfect and she gave a speech that was called
masterful. you say in your book michelle cut the stations of the family cross. her father, climbing the stairs slowly and borrowing money to pay for her princeton bills. barack's white grandmother riding the bus to her bank job and training male colleagues who were promoted while she hit the glass ceiling. the men earned more money and barack's family continued to scrape by. barack and michelle in chicago young married. paying moder toward their student loans than toward their mortgage. she goes on to say that as president, she has seen first hand how that doesn't change how you are. it reveals who you are, and what does being first lady reveal about michelle obama? and i almost aid michelle obama super star. >> guest: you're a fan. i can see.
i think in this role, we have seen so many sides of michelle obama. so many worlds in which she can walk with great comfort and confidence and so many ways in which she really is trying to make a difference, and i think it gets back to the conversations about purpose she had as a girl growing up, that she had at princeton and harvard. it reflects the work she did along the way on the south side of chicago during her 20-year professional career, where she is in the white house she is trying to show herself as an example to kids about what is possible in this country that is still pretty darn imperfect but where things are changing, and what one person can do. i think that she certainly will hope that message will be a big part of her legacy. >> host: would you say that michelle obama's story is the story of the american