tv Michelle Obama at Pennsylvania Conference for Women CSPAN November 25, 2017 11:14am-12:21pm EST
bedford on his book "the art of lessons from america's philosopher in chief." and author rebecca fraser in her book "the mayflower, the families, the voyage, and the founding of america." tonight on capitol art ins. architecture and sunday at 9:10 p.m. the groundbreaking for the eisenhower memorial. former first lady michelle obama talked about her life in and out of the white house and shonda rimes is the creator and executive producer of grey's anatomy. she moderated the discussion. this is just over an hour. ♪
mrs. obama: these are big girl chairs, aren't they? >> [cheering] >> look at all of these people. >> i know, ladies-- >> [cheering] >> and a few good men as well. what's up? >> i thought we would sit and have a conversation. >> we should just chat. >> i've brought some guidelines because i know we have an hour, and we want to be useful with our hour. so, you are married to a very nice man. let's put that over there. that is not very interesting. what we are interested in is you. mrs. obama: i know that subject well.
shonda: we heard a bit of the bio, but this is michelle robinson obama. mrs. obama: good to meet you all. [cheering] shonda: for the last eight years, she has been serving the country. before you were in the white house as first lady, you were a successful attorney, as well as a dean, administrator, primary breadwinner of your household? mrs. obama: yes, there was a time. shonda: she is brilliant, powerful, impactful, successful. ul, successful. , what is it like to make that kind of sacrifice to give that up to help your husband serve the american people? mrs. obama: that is a good question. actually that is what i am , taking the time this year to do, is reflected on that. reflect on that. the truth is for the last eight years, and i will say 10 -- because it is not just the two terms, but the two years of running required in this country to become president.
it has been a decade of being shot out of a cannon. there has really been literally no time to think about feelings. you think of those last eight years, you are trying to develop your initiatives, or at least i am maybe. you were not doing that the last eight years, everybody here. i was trying to develop my initiatives, i was trying to make sure that the girls' lives were normal, what door led to what room. you know, living in the white house is doing what probably everybody is doing in this room. juggling careers, trying to be relevant, making sure your marriage is intact and that your kids are healthy, but you are doing it under the harshest brightest light there is, with , people judging and supporting and judging and supporting along the way. it probably doesn't feel any different than what most people go through.
you know, it is that constant balance, that constant feeling like you are always maybe not doing enough, and could be doing more. there are also those moments of doubt, you know, are you good enough? are you smart enough? are you being relevant? but you get through, and hopefully we got through over the last eight years, and made the country proud. >> [cheering] shonda: it is a little bit to me like you are working a pretty sweet job, only 365 days a year. mrs. obama: with no salary. shonda: there is a difference in the sea suite thing.
obama: no salary, no budget. no policy authority in any way. shonda: but you are working a real job. suddenly after all that time, it just stops. for me, i am a workaholic, and a lot of people love what they do. was it like to go from that pace to nothing? mrs. obama: it's good. it's really good. >> [laughter] mrs. obama: maybe in a year i will be chomping at the bit. i don't know if i call myself a workaholic. i like chilling. it is good to have control over your day-to-day life. for eight years our lives really weren't our own. you are moving from isis the crisis. we look at sadly what happened in las vegas. my heart goes out to the victims and families.
sadly that becomes too much part , of the job of becoming commander-in-chief, is sadly overseeing that kind of loss, and not having a solution to offer families when you come for them because we are not at that point yet. that is the kind of stuff you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. you open up the newspaper, and everything on it is your husband's responsibility and indirectly yours. i am kind of good chilling for a little bit. >> [laughter] mrs. obama: but that is the work we are working on right now, figuring out what that next chapter is going to be. definitely at my age and barack's age, we are not ready to stop. >> [applause] mrs. obama: we have to figure out what that new chapter looks
like, and how you continue to be relevant and have an impact in this new position. shonda: what do you do after this? you can kind of do anything. or does it feel like there are only specific things you can do? mrs. obama: no, it feels like things are pretty wide open. for the last eight years, we had a standard of ethics, and there were things we wouldn't do. there were a lot of constraints under the obama administration. there was a certain expectation. there was a lot that we could do -- could not do and didn't do because of our respect for the position, and what it means to the country to have a commander in chief that actually upholds and honors the office. >> [applause] mrs. obama: so definitely life is freer now. one of the things that all presidents do is they have the opportunity to develop a
presidential library, which is not just an archive, a place to go to see my dresses -- don't worry, they will be there. i keep telling barack, no one is going to come to hear about his policies, they will go to see my dresses. and then they will go into the room where the policy stuff is. anyway, we are working on that right now. the obama presidential center will be the base from which we will develop the next set of policies and programs. in fact, we are hosting our first summit at the end of the month in chicago to do focus grouping around program ideas and pulling things together. we will continue to do work on education, girls leadership and training. barack and i want to be involved in developing the next generation of leaders. we don't want to be the folks that don't go away and don't give up our seats and make sure
other young people have the knowledge and expertise to take our places. that doesn't just happen for many. young people don't know how to get in politics. they don't know how to be community leaders. they don't know what community organizing is. that is not just true for young people in the united states. if you look at young leaders in asia, africa, around the world, part of what we want to do is be a place where these young people can get training and become the next leaders of the world. shonda: i think that is amazing. mrs. obama: we are excited about it. it is important. shonda: also the idea of passing it on. mrs. obama: absolutely. i always say this -- it is difficult. politics is one of those things where you see it a lot. people hold on maybe a little too long.
if you hold onto long -- if you hold on too long and you don't make way there are so many new , fresh ideas and perspectives coming along. sometimes we lose sight. when you are living in the white house, or serving in congress and the senate, it is a unique bubble of isolation. you do not get to have the same kind of interaction, and therefore there are some parts of you that do lose touch. so it is important to make way for those new voices and new ideas and new perspectives so that the country and world continues to evolve. that is not necessarily how a lot of people practice politics. a lot of people treat those seats like they belong to them, and they don't. those seats belong to the country. >> [applause] mrs. obama: it is important to know when it is time to move on and find another way to have impact. that's what i've got to say.
>> [laughter] shonda: i want to talk a little bit about empowerment. you and i have had this conversation a lot. i spoke about it a little bit this morning but not in depth because i was saving this. a lot of women i know, and a lot of women you know, and a lot of women in this room talk about something called impostor syndrome, how they feel like they don't belong in the room, how they don't raise their voices to be heard, how it is difficult for them. you and i are two people that don't feel like that. i spend a lot of time trying to figure out why i don't feel that way, and why you don't feel that way. what is it about you that feels comfortable in any room you are in an comfortable raising your voice? mrs. obama: i can't say i have always felt that way. we have talked about that. it is something you grow into. there are definitely times when i was younger. it took some time to find that voice and live life and have those experiences where you fail, but you succeed.
you try hard things, and you exercise bravery, and it works out. or you get a seat at the table and you realize that the people around it are no smarter or better. a lot of that comes with life experience. that has definitely developed for me over time. like you said, that is part of what we have been talking about and thinking about. how do we facilitate that in our young girls? what stands out? i think for me, one of the things was having parents, both mother and father, who always thought what me and my brother had to say was important. they made room for our voices at a very young age. i don't mean in any symbolic way. i just mean sitting at the dinner table and listening to what we have to say, and laughing at her jokes and
allowing our opinions to come into the conversation, not always shushing us. even when we did not say things as right or respectfully, because we were still learning how to do that. we were never told kids were supposed to be seen, but not heard. when i think about it it wasn't , just my mother and father, but my extended family too. i lived in a family that loved kids and loved the voices of children. when i think about what is sometimes missing for young girls, for example, is so early in our lives we are shushed. and not just directly shushed, but sometimes we are treated a little too preciously. we may have a father who loves us, but he treats us like a doll. they don't treat us like real beings and partners. when my father taught my brother to box at the age of seven, he
bought me a pair of boxing gloves too. it was important that even though i had an older brother, we were on par. he had to learn how to box, so did i. if we were playing catch, i was going to be playing catch too. i was loved dearly by my father, but i was never so precious that he did not think i could be at the table. those little things those small , things that we take for granted -- we think it is just enough to love a girl. no, you have to treasure a girl. you have to respect her and you have to give her power at a very young age, because she is not going to show up like that. shonda: that is part of what she is made of. that power is expected and part of her, versus be nice and be sweet. and it is ok to be angry. there are a whole set of emotions. we are afraid when our daughters
show anger or discontent, or frustration. cross your legs. there all these rules that slowly suffocate young girls. i don't think i had a lot of those boundaries. once you get out in the world and get out of the comfort of your community, then you start getting the messages that try to shut you down. we all get those in very subtle ways. i called on those small cuts. i tried to explain this to my husband, to men all the time, that women are so vulnerable, some of the cuts are thin, like paper cuts, like some men oogling at your body on the street. maybe that feels minor but that does something to you. or the teacher that told you you were not good enough, or you
never got called on, small cuts. then there are deeper cuts, like you were actually physically abused. when you think of the percentage of women that suffer from some kind of physical or emotional abuse in their lifetime, those cuts are deep. when you are definitely mistreated in the workplace, and you have to put up with ugly talk and bad behavior, and you just silence yourself, those are cuts. they last and they leave scars. oftentimes the ability to push through those cuts is because of that foundation we had coming up, that whole notion that i know i am better than how i feel right now because somebody told me that a long time ago. society certainly doesn't help. shonda: not with the images they put out. note the messages you are given.
-- not with the messages you are given. i was told i was too loud in class, that i had too many questions that i raised my hand , too much, which is ridiculous given that girls don't ask enough questions. that was my problem, i asked too many questions. for children, to tell someone they are too curious, they are trying to learn too much, is appalling. i think for a lot of kids, there is an age at which that silencing starts to happen. mrs. obama: the thing we cannot forget, and this is what makes me sad about what happens in this country around education and what we do to our children, is the children know when people don't believe in them. when they are not being invested in. we try to pretend like the inequalities in education, that somehow kids are shuffling through -- kids know when things are different for them. you know?
they know when they are being quieted, when they are not being treated fairly. shame on us as adults to not know when they have a bad teacher or when someone says something crappy about them, that somehow they don't know. they know. second grade,y as when i was in a bad classroom. i knew as early as second grade. this teacher does not even care about us. i had a parent that fought for me. when i think about the kids that don't have people fighting for them, they see what i saw. that happens a lot to minorities, to women. those are the little cuts that i mentioned. they start as early as seven and eight and 10. we have to be cognizant. we can't look at women and go, why didn't you raise your hand in a meeting? you want to say, don't you see all these cuts on me?
you look at my scars. you wonder why i am not brave and can't speak up? we can pretend we are not hurting our kids. we do it. but i think you and i were fortunate early on to have people that loved and believed and supported us. we have to do the same for kids in our lives as much as we can. shonda: i think the more you step into those roles and the more you're in those rooms, the less difficult it becomes. even when you make mistakes, there is a space for you. it is hard to find a place for yourself when you don't believe those rooms exist for you in the first place. mrs. obama: it is true. a lot of power and bravery is practice. some of that is taking the risk to trying to be at the table, and when you are at the table, taking that first risk to open your mouth and maybe be
rejected. as women we don't want to feel that reduction. -- rejection. i see that in men. i see that in my husband, my brother. they fail all over the place and they are good with it. i was wrong all over the place. you know? we as women feel like we have to be perfect all the time before we can even step in. it is hard to lean in if your 're worried about not getting things right. i think we worry too much about that. shonda: do you think women in general have less chances to fail? you fail once, people start labeling you faster than they label a man ever. mrs. obama: absolutely. that is true for women for minorities. the bars are different. we experienced that over the last eight years. i talked about on the campaign trail, the bar just kept moving. you meet it, then the bar when a
ould change. we are seeing that now quite frankly. the bar has -- >> [laughter] [applause] mrs. obama: i mean, that bar is going places. it is amazing to watch. but i want women to watch this. i want you all to pay attention, because this is what happens when we don't stand up. we give our seats up to someone who is supposed to be the stereotyped notions of what power and success looks like. we sat at tables with people like that. you want to talk about -- shonda: imposter syndrome. mrs. obama: you want to talk about imposter syndrome? i have seen imposters at a lot of tables. when you're at the table and when you realize, oh, you are a fool. >> [laughter]
[applause] mrs. obama: and i am worried about raising my hand? i have been at so many tables with so many fools. >> [applause] mrs. obama: but shame on us, if we sit by and let an imposter talk us down. shame on us. when you know what is right, and then you don't say anything -- you see wrong happening, and you sit by quietly because you are afraid to fail -- that is what i want to challenge us as women to be. to speak up in all of the tables we are in. if we don't speak up, our voices are never involved in the process of problem solving, and we don't get to the right answers without our voices.
shonda: do you do this for the women you work around? who you work with? the younger women or the women -- mrs. obama: oh my gosh, we have these conversations all the time. shonda: we do too. mrs. obama: i have a heavily female staff. we run things here. guys ur guys -- the poor at our table. you still see it. i spend a lot of time mentoring, coaching women in our office, even in the west wing. there were still women who complained about not being included, but weren't necessarily willing to push to get in. i am constantly telling young women to speak up, to talk. don't waste your seat at the table, and if you are scared to use your voice, you have to let someone else in that will use it, because we cannot afford for you to be afraid to fail.
it is a waste of thoughts. but you also have to create the environment where people feel comfortable. and that is what i know that our environments do. shonda: i try hard to make sure the women who work there -- if i say, what do you want to be to our young writers? a lovely young black woman, really talented, she said she hopes to be a coproducer on someone's show. i stopped her in the hallway and i said, don't ever say that out loud to someone ever again. when someone asks you what you want, you say, i want my own show. that is how you get something. it is that fear i think that happens. but what if that doesn't happen? i said, it is never going to happen if you don't say it out loud. mrs. obama: men don't even ask that question, what if it doesn't happen?
i would not say all men, but the -- that a lot of men don't ask that question. what if it doesn't work out? that is a behavior of our gender. shonda: i think men just know or feel comfortable just leaping. mrs. obama: that is how they socialize. you are supposed to compete. you are going to lose. if we don't even play games -- the other thing i realized when i was younger, sports -- even though i am a closeted jock, that is not something that was available to girls in my generation. there were sports, but title vii had not done its job in the way it had for my girls' generation. there is a practice you get in competing and playing and losing and recovering from it. trying something onstage or competing alone. i think boys get to practice.
they practice it a lot more. my brother, who was a basketball player, competed every saturday. instead of being on the court, where was i? i was hitting on the bleachers with the other girls cheering. those were opportunities that i missed to practice competing and loss, the whole gamut. shonda: billy jim king is according to statistics that the more women that occupy high level roles in companies say they competed in a team sport, which makes a big difference. i played the oboe. >> [laughter] mrs. obama: very competitive instrument. shonda: i was in the marching band. mrs. obama: you are carrying your oboe, ripping it up. shonda: you know, get involved in something.
what do you think makes this time in life for young women different from even just 10 years ago? for your girls. i feel like they have a different view on the world, a different method in terms of how they work than we have. it is the idea that gen x, they work in a different way. what do you think they have to teach us? mrs. obama: oh gosh, i think this generation, because of social media, the internet, there are positives and negatives to it, and trust me, i have my issues with technology and how it just sort of -- the -- sucks the life out of kids in some way, shape or form, but i also see kids are more exposed to more people and more cultures.
i think they are more open in ways. i think that they are less tolerant of obvious in equities. -- in equities. i think that this generation will look at what is happening now in the world and they will say, this does not feel right because this is not what i was taught. they are looking at the struggle of values as, do what i say, not what i do. i think this generation of kids that have been taught to probe and think for themselves, you know have been raised with an openness. many of the young people today only know barack obama as their president and what that standard felt like. and what kind of messages were being talked about. under hope andly possibilities and options and opportunity and creating more space, so i think -- i think
they will be less tolerant. i think they will feel some of what is happening now as intrinsically not what they were taught. so i think in that way they give me hope, so i think that they are going to, when they start stepping into power, they will come to a lot of these issues with a new way of seeing the world and viewing relationships, and their connection to people. so i am optimistic in that way. but i also feel like i do not even know what technology is going to mean for them. i think i am not even in a position to know how they will be different, because i cannot relate to so much of what my kids do and how they act. and what it is doing to their brains. so i have a hard time knowing what it is going to mean. shonda: is a bring in the world -- is it bringing the world
closer, or are you more isolated, or are you more connected? i cannot figure it out. mrs. obama: how do you do with your kids and technology? shonda: i do pretty well. my little ones do not really have technology. mrs. obama: you just wait. [laughter] shonda: but the 15-year-old, she has a phone and ipad and they are always with her when she is doing homework, sometimes she is studying with a friend on it and sometimes she is not. and every year i do something called amish summer, when i turn off all the electronics in the house. mrs. obama: you are so cool. -- horrible. they hate you. [laughter] shonda: there is a big dramatic rush and i tell them to go outside and figure out what the world looks like and there is a week of mourning. . week of serious mourning mrs. obama: they hate you. shonda: yes. and then i come home and my daughter has built a city out of cardboard boxes and it is fine.
mrs. obama: it is a drug almost, it is hard to withdraw. it is like how it is with parents. are the days when the phones -- gone are the days when the phones would ring, remember that, in your house? you would pick up and is somebody would say, this is blank and i'm called to speak with melia. and you think, this is the person who is talking to my daughter, boy girl or whatever. , but now, there are friends i do not even know that they have. shonda: yes. mrs. obama: and i am shocked whey they say i'm going over such and such's house. who is that? my good friend. i have never heard that name before. [laughter] mrs. obama: she is one of my best friends. that happens so much. they look at me like i'm crazy. i do not know this little girl.
shonda: that happens to me all the time. remember the phone cord in the kitchen -- mrs. obama: we would stretch it out. we had a long one. shonda: your mother could hear everything. and would know how long you are on the phone. you cannot make crazy, dark plans because no matter what code you are speaking in they knew it. mrs. obama: now you come in and they have that thing, the computer open, and it is always homework. i am like i do not believe that. ,you just slammed it down because you are doing homework. open it up. i do not even know how to police that. let me see. i am pressing buttons and i realize i do not have their password. this happened to me before when i was regulating. i realized i could not get in. trying to be all tough. give me your password. [laughter] mrs. obama: and malia, she almost laughed at me because i was trying to be tough. it makes parenting more difficult. shonda: it is scary. i do not know. mrs. obama: i think they have to
be more -- this is what i tell my girls, because i cannot monitor everything you do, that puts unfairness on you to be smarter. i know, because with their frontal lobes all open, and that is true. [laughter] mrs. obama: they are just not that bright, they can be so intellectually bright, connecting dots, but then they will get there, but they are not there yet. it takes a while. but in light of that reality, what we know about brain development and all that, we give them computers and they are sent into the world on their own without any -- i do not know whether it will make it more independent, does it make them -- a lot of the stuff i feel like we will see. shonda: we are all in a great experiment. mrs. obama: that is comforting. [laughter] shonda: it is not helping. ok. i just moved to a company called netflix. mrs. obama: uh, yeah! [applause]
shonda: a little bitty company. they are pretty good. they have an idea that hard work is not what matters, it is the quality of the work, not the quantity. they do not need to see you from her -- at work from 6:00 a.m. to midnight they want you to come , in with quality work, which is pretty controversial. i like it, but it is controversial. what do you think of it? what does that mean for you? mrs. obama: i think it is a great idea. it makes so much sense. we do this because that is one of the problems i think with the education system, it is not individualized. it is hard to do when you are educating millions and millions of kids, but we see it in our own kids. they learn differently, different paces, it does not
make one smarter or brighter. it is one of the things that keeps more girls out of it, because girls learn differently, and who cares how fast you get it done as long as you get to the right answer. and i think work operates under that same theory, that time in somehow means something. we have all worked with people, right? we have worked with people. you know how people can be. you have seen people who can be at the office all day and get absolutely nothing done. [laughter] mrs. obama: they are there, they are showing up. but they are on their computer. and i found i was the most productive when i was in a flex situation, when i was the vice president at the university of chicago hospital i had both kids, barack was in the senate. he was not home mostly during the week. my day, i got up at 5:00 in the morning to work out my my mother would come over. i had a babysitter that did not drive. you all can relate to this. i hired a babysitter that could not drive.
[laughter] mrs. obama: how dumb was that? so i would work out, come back home, take a shower, mom would get the kids breakfast, i would get them in the car, we had two separate drop-offs. we were in the neighborhood where my job was and the girls' school was. so the only reason this was possible. get to the office, walk from the parking lot, because i had to park, then get work done in time for pickup to get out and go sit in a line, get them back home and come back to work. then go back home for dinner. one of the things i told my boss, the president of the hospital, was do not check for me for needless meetings, i do not have time for that. i will be getting work done, but if you are looking for me to show up and a sit in meetings to make you feel good, i would -- i would like, i cannot do it. i am working my butt off, but if you're looking at me to look like the guys that are sitting
next to me who either do not have kids, or have wives who do all this stuff, and you will measure me against this guy, you know. that was part of me using my voice, because i did not even take the job without the clarity and expectation that given where my life was, that they would get product, but in the way i delivered it and not in the way they thought it should be delivered. that was the first time i actually demanded flexibility and not a cut in salary, either. because one of the things i learned, i tried the whole part-time thing, the flex thing where you basically just get gypped. you are working your but off -- butt off and you are doing the same with the babysitting costs, never again. i think it is a great idea and i think it is the future.
and the only way that you are going to ensure that you keep quality women in, and it is not just true for women, but people who care about their families and family lives, at some point we have to create a different definition of what it means to be successful at work and i think netflix is doing a good job. [applause] mrs. obama: how do you feel about it? shonda: i thought it was wonderful. we are not under all the practices of the company, but the minute i read that, i thought, that is definitely something we are adopting. we have to figure out a way so people do not have to be on all the time. i told people they should not be on the phone after 7:00 and i do p.m. not want to hear from them on weekends, so they should not feel like they needed to work on weekends. it is sanity. you have children. mrs. obama: it is also a product of using your seat at the table. because that is the other thing. there are women like us have leverage to do that.
but the vast majority of women do not have the leverage to do that. you do not have a job that allows for flexibility, if you are a teacher, bus driver, and nurse where you are working a shift, it is harder to negotiate that. but for the women in the room who are in those seats and at those tables and talking about human resources and they are in the conversation, we need to be the ones making those arguments for the ones that do not. it is an obligation. you have an obligation if you have a voice, to speak up. or give the seat up and let somebody who is going to do the fightng to fight the good have the seat. shonda: people say to me, we can have babies? so they come and they get pregnant and i do not fire them when they are pregnant, we have a party. it should be that way. i do not understand why people get punished for doing their work and getting pregnant at the same time. that happened a lot.
mrs. obama: it happens a lot. [applause] mrs. obama: because it was making those decisions? -- because he was making those decisions? shonda: exactly. you can say two men, do you have kids? and they say yes. and they ask, how is the wife doing? and they say, she does not work. she stays at home the entire time. and then you say, think about that. think about the options available for people. mrs. obama: ok fellas, we are talking to you now. [laughter] mrs. obama: think about that. it is a whole range of things, but it is who is at the decision-making table. and i have done a lot of conversations over the past several months, and a lot of questions i get from organizations and industries that we are working on diversity, what do you recommend and the first thing i recommend is that you make sure the problem-solving table is diverse.
you know, you are not going to -- there cannot be a room full of men who are going to come up with the right answers for how to create a work environment hospitable to women. shonda: and it cannot be a room full of women. mrs. obama: the same is true. it is true for all of us. if we are trying to get anything done and we look around and we all look alike, and we are all sitting around the same table and we feel very comfortable with ourselves, we should question that. at any table that we are at. and we should be working actively to mix it up, so we are getting a real broad range of perspectives on every issue. but, shoot, i would see that in congress. one of the most interesting points, i told you about this, usually at the state of the union address, where you sit in the balcony and you are watching the state of the union, like you do -- shonda: like you do. [laughter] mrs. obama: you see it on tv. i am in the room. but when you are in the room what you can see is the real
, dichotomy, that on one side of the room it is a feeling of color almost. on one side of the room it is literally gray and white, literally, that is the color palette on one side of the room. on the other side there is yellows, blues, white and greens, physically there is a different color and tone. because one side, all men. all white. on the other side, some women, some people of color, and whenever i was sitting i would always have a guest in the booth and i was only the most embarrassed at the beginning when people would say that, because i would say, is it just me? am i looking at how government works? and people would look down and go, that looks good, that looks right. we are probably getting a lot done and we are doing it right,
you know. i look and i go, no wonder. no wonder we struggle, no wonder people do not trust politics. [applause] mrs. obama: we are not even noticing what the rooms look like. but it is not just politics. i am sure we can go in any suite in this country and we would say the same thing happening. so until we are ready to fight for that, which means some people have to be willing to give up their seats to make room or you need to be ready to add more seats, we will, i think we will continue to struggle because if people have not had the experience of being other and out and you are trying to fix the problem for those folks, it is hard to come up with the right answer when you have not lived it. shonda: that is for sure. [applause] shonda: you talk about inequality and education in the same way, people do not live it. they do not know what they are
doing. i think everybody always talks about wanting to fix education in some way, and it feels like nobody knows what to do. and now we are under a governance where education is not being run by anybody that has a background in education. so -- [laughter] [applause] shonda: what can we as, local people, you are in a school district and there are parents and you care about what is going on, what can people do on the ground? one small thing that would help fix schools, or help them in any way, or support them? mrs. obama: that is tough. so there are two responses i have. the biggest change i think that we all can have as individuals is close up. we can impact our kids, our families, our kids' classrooms more powerfully than we can change the system. often times that kind of close
, up power is not given its full sort of due and credit. people always think if i cannot make a big change, and it makes it feel like -- uh, as if these problems are not solvable, because no. what you have to do to change education? you have to have the right governor who cares about your education system, and you have to have enough money and resources, and you need to pay teachers. you have to vote. you have got to, you have to have a state legislature. a lot of people do not understand that education is a state issue. it is not who is in the white house, but in the statehouse that makes those determinations. so those are big things. and when you say that, people shut down and they glaze over
because -- but that is really the answer, because the truth is, we know what good education looks like. a lot of our kids are getting a good education, so it is not like we do not know what it looks like and how much it costs. there is always a trip. especially when i know what i am paying for my kids and we start second-guessing how much we should be paying for public education, that is part of the problem. you know? we are ok sending $30,000 a year for some kids, but we want to count pennies and talk about taxes when we talk about education for the vast majority of kids. we know what it takes. we know you have to pay teachers. we know that you have to value education with salaries and a dollars that will attract the best talent, we know that. so what can you really do? you can focus on your school and be involved. i know, i went to an inner city
public school and my mom was a stay-at-home mom, but she was involved in the ppa. a lot of the extra programs that we got involved with, if something was wrong there was a crew of mothers, probably only three of them, my mom, mrs. johnson and one or two others and they would be at the school all in the principal's face and they would be shaking stuff up. the three of them. they would be listening to what we had to say. so for a small circle of kids, when i was growing up there were who when i was growing up there were multiple age programs and they made sure that we got access to community colleges and we were getting college courses in grammar school. i say this to say that this is the stuff that mothers did, just as parents, through the pta. they worked for the kids that did not have parents. it was not like they were just looking out for us, because my mother would say there are a lot of mothers who could not stay at home, so she was advocating for them. do not underestimate the power of what you can do at a small level when you do not feel like you can change the big picture, because that is all we have.
if we are not going to fix education, you need to really make sure that your kids are getting what they need and that the teachers are held accountable by someone. but it is difficult unless you impact the system. shonda: it is about showing up and having a relationship with the school. mrs. obama: absolutely. shonda: however big or small. my mother did that too. i was in the suburbs. a very not brown school. i think my mother wanted to make sure that i was involved in things, so she took over the pta, and brownie troops. i did not even notice it. mrs. obama: you did not even know they were cursing out the teachers and whatnot. [laughter] shonda: no. my mother was like, i came up there, and i said, you did? high five. it was powerful. it helps. i feel like my mother did that thing where she paved the way for me to miss all the obstacles in my path.
mrs. obama: we talked about this too, that people overlook the thing that they have most power over. you know? i mean, i know so many people who will go to a protest and do something big on an issue, but they will not deal with it in their own home. you know? [applause] mrs. obama: it is one of those things where sometimes it feels easier to confront the big picture, right? than address your husband or your father, or whoever. in the case of a woman, with a a right to choose or the decisions we want to make. sometimes it feels easier to take on the big challenge, rather than confront somebody in your own face and a change their minds right then and there.
and to me that is something that i am, you know, that i think we all have to explore a little bit. what makes us afraid to make a change in our own lives, in our homes, in our families? what makes it hard for us to disagree with those in our lives that are doing the wrong thing, but we will go out into the world and expect -- i would have this sometimes when i would do fundraisers for barack. there would be women who would upset with herly husband's position on this, this, or that. and i would be like, what is your has been doing? [laughter] [applause] mrs. obama: because for many of them, i knew their husbands were on the other side of the political issues. and i would like, you are asking -- and i was like, you are asking me what my husband is doing, because you do not want to confront your husband in your own house, and you do not agree with him politically. i agree with my husband politically, so i think it is something that we have to think about.
where are we willing to exercise our power? where are we willing to take risks? what keeps us from, what are we really afraid of? shonda: that is our most valuable way of making change, people staring us in the face every day. mrs. obama: i always say, i cannot walk into the room and change hearts and minds. people have given me compliments about speeches, i gave some passionate speeches in this election, this past election. but look at the outcome. [applause] mrs. obama: you know? i just think that me as a stranger, coming into lives, i can move people with my words, but if i do not know them and they do not know me, it is sort of like what we heard from renee -- you have to get up close to people, you have to be willing to be close. you cannot ignore the people who are right in your orbit.
and think you can affect bigger change. that is why when i came into the white house and i said i was mom and achieve, the statement i was making was i cannot help any other kid until i make sure that minor good. even, as first lady my very first response ability was to make sure that my girls were sane, because i actually have control over my kids, they are my responsibility. what i feed to them, i have the opportunity to feed this stuff to them every day, i am the role model. so i have to do that right before i can tackle the bigger issue. that is my responsibility to get that right before i go out and try to change things. shonda: and be a role model for anybody else. mrs. obama: if i am not that for my own girls.
shonda: they are great girls. mrs. obama: they are doing all right. shonda: they are great. mrs. obama: thank you for that. [applause] shonda: so far so good, everyone. that is how we feel is mothers. my mother still says that about me and craig. so far, so good. i am like, mom, i am first lady. mrs. obama: i think i did ok. she is like, i don't know. [laughter] mrs. obama: still waiting to see. shonda: hoping i do not mess up. [laughter] shonda: i want to do a lighting round of questions. what is your comfort food? mrs. obama: anything salty. french fries, pizza, burgers. even the vegetable lady, when i need comfort i will go to a chip. shonda: which, you work out all the time. mrs. obama: i do. shonda: your idea of vacation is working out. that is not a vacation. mrs. obama: it is. i need that chip. shonda: what does it give you?
mrs. obama: you know, at first it is just, it is that thing. i started working out hard. because my husband worked out all the time and i was mad at him because he was always working out and i was with the kids. so i did it as revenge at first. [laughter] mrs. obama: i was like, ok, i'm working out too then. which was a good motivation. and then after a while, i needed it. it made me feel better, physically, emotionally, it was meditative. it was and is, it just, it is just a place to release and to solely invest in me. shonda: centering. mrs. obama: it is something women do not do.
we take the thing just for me, for nobody else. i work out because it does not help malia, sasha, maybe i am serving as a role model but it is all about me and it feels good. we should find more things. for me it is working out. maybe something else for somebody else. but for me, it is doing it for me exclusively. shonda: i think it is fantastic. if only i had time, if only i had time, because i am so busy thinking other things are more important. mrs. obama: we do not prioritize ourselves and for me the workout, what i started doing with that, i started when i was an executive, i had to learn that i was realizing i would look at a year and i could easily give my time away to everybody else, you know, before i even gave it to me, or to my kids. because people have schedulers, and they are coordinating things a year in advance and you are agreeing to things and you are not looking at how it impacts your day-to-day life. what my habit is that i started and still doing now, at the beginning of the year we look at
, a blank calendar at the beginning of the year and we put everything for the kids first, so that means potlucks, sporting events, parent-teacher conferences, vacations, when they are on break, and that goes on there. second is me, when do i want to work out, hang out with my girlfriends, when can i take a long weekend. put that on there. when that is done, everything else can come around that. shonda: genius. mrs. obama: it forces you to say no, because you already blocked out the time. no, busy that we can, doing doingy that weekend, something with my kids. if we do not do that we wind up always giving that time away to somebody, or we feel guilty about saying no. that is a little thing i do. shonda: isn't that good? a clear layer he of priorities. even if you're just looking at
the week that way. i like it. lightning round. shonda: what are you reading? mrs. obama: i read "commonwealth." and i reread "catcher in the rye." i had a niece who was reading it. i read it right before i saw you. i find sometimes i will reread the things the kids are reading, sort of like knowing what is on their mind. i just recently reread "grapes of wrath," which seems interestingly applicable to these times. so things like that. you know, i can read "song of solomon" again and again. shonda: that book is beautiful. mrs. obama: my favorite of all time. and i am reading my book, chapters of my book that i am working on. shonda: going over and over. mrs. obama: over and over again.
[applause] shonda: how is it going? mrs. obama: going ok. i have never written a book before and i am working with a great collaborative team. it has been therapeutic for the reasons i said earlier, because i really realized how i had not had time to reflect on the past 10 years, and i find that there are big events that i have no memory of. shonda: wow. mrs. obama: i find we have to talk with other people. i will have a picture and i look and i go, what was that? [laughter] mrs. obama: where was i? i do not remember. people will tell me stories, do you remember when the pope said this? i met the pope? when did that happen question ppen? big things, you know. that is how big the rush of experience is, or at least was for me, that it was like a thing after a thing, a big thing after a big thing, and you get to the end of the week and i would have a friend say, that was a lovely dinner, and i am like what
dinner? the state dinner. oh man, that was tuesday? i forgot all about that. this is giving me a chance to look back and feel it. shonda: and pull it all in. mrs. obama: yes. the process feels good. shonda: that will be a good book to read. mrs. obama: i hope people read it. shonda: when is it coming? mrs. obama: about a year. this time next year. shonda: what do you wish women would do with their time? mrs. obama: invest in themselves. you know, i wish more women would find ways to put themselves higher on their priority list. [applause] shonda: yeah. what quotes do you live by? or is there one? mrs. obama: do unto others. we are our brothers and sisters keepers. that is the one thing that would drive me through these eight
years. if we could just, again -- i think it was said earlier, if we could just see the humanity in one another. the beauty of the position i had was i got to see the humanity of -- the beauty of the position i had was i got to see the humanity of people, even people who do not agree with us, who are on a different side of the issue, because we got to be up close to people in a way that most people do not. if we could just operate with a level of intimacy, and give one another the benefit of the doubt. if we just try to figure out, why do you feel that way? why are you angry? what are you afraid of? as opposed to pointing and blaming. we are not that different. um, so, i tend to think about that when i get frustrated or i get impatient, what is the thing that keeps me from going low.
i have to remind myself, even when i do not agree with people, that is somebody's mother, somebody is acting from a base of fear maybe i do not understand. i have to try to work to tap into that, so that i am not judging. so that i do not reach the wrong conclusion, because i felt the sting when people make judgments about me that were not true or right, or that were awful and based on something -- why do you think i would do the wrong thing for this country? why do you think i do not care about my country? why would you think that of me, and you do not know me? i learned that hurts when people do that to you, so i have to be very careful to make sure that i am not doing that to anybody else who i consider a fellow human. so i tend to have that resonate through my mind a lot. shonda: that is a powerful lesson. [applause]
shonda: ok, it has been a special day for all of us. i also know it is a special day for you. mrs. obama: oh yeah. shonda: i have a little bit of a surprise. mrs. obama: do you? shonda: can you roll the video? are you ready? barack obama: hey honey, i know you are with all these important pennsylvania women and you are sharing the stage with our buddy, shonda rhimes, but i had to crash this party because today we have been married for 25 years. [cheers and applause] now the idea that you would put up with me for a quarter of a century is a remarkable testament to what a saintly, wonderful, patient person you are. um, it was a lot easier for me to do it, because the fact of the matter is not only have you been an extraordinary partner,
not only have you been a great friend, somebody who could always make me laugh, somebody who would always make sure that i was following what i thought was right, but you have also been an example to our daughters and to the entire country. your strength, your grace, your determination, your honesty, um, the fact that you look so good doing all this -- [laughter] the way in which you have always taken responsibility for your own actions, but also for looking out for the people around you. it is remarkable. and it is no wonder that, as people got to know you the way that i got to know you, that they fell in love. and it is truly the best decision i ever made to be
persistent enough asking you out for a date that you finally gave in. [laughter] and i hope that you feel the same way. so, i do not want to interrupt the flow of what i am sure is a fascinating discussion, but i figured that you would not mind maybe me parachuting in to say how much i love you, and how much i appreciate you, and to all of the women in the audience, thank you for your indulgence. bye-bye. [cheers and applause] shonda: good man. mrs. obama: thank you, guys. shonda: happy anniversary. [applause] shonda: and thank you, everybody. mrs. obama: thank you so much. shonda rhimes. shonda: michelle obama. [applause] mrs. obama: that was so sweet. [cheers and applause]
♪ >> this weekend on the c-span networks, tonight at 9:15 p.m. eastern on c-span, former presidential speechwriters for andidents nixon to obama, sunday at six: 30 p.m., dr. anthony ison on how your zip code impacts your help. on book tv on c-span two, tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern, daily caller news foundation editor-in-chief christopher art of on his book "the on sunday," and author rebecca fraser and her book "the mayflower" on american .istory tv and penn state university history professor matthew rest off on the u.s. capitol's art and architecture.
sunday at nine: 10:00 p.m., the groundbreaking ceremony of the dwight d. eisenhower memorial to washington dc. this weekend on the c-span networks. >> the c-span bus is on a 50 capital store, visiting every capital and hearing about each state priority. we kicked off the tour in november delaware, and have now visited 12 state capitals. our next stop is tallahassee, florida, and will be there november 6 with live interviews during washington journal. >> next, google's chief economist and a microsoft ai research specialist joint authors and educators in a discussion on whether artificial intelligence and automation are destroying or creating jobs. aspen institute, this is one hour.