While growing up in the south side of Chicago, Michelle Obama said she didn’t realize her family was poor.
“When you live in a house full of love, music and laughter, you feel like you’re rich,” Obama said. “That was our childhood: things pieced together with duct tape and love.”
Thousands gathered at the Frank Erwin Center Thursday night to hear the former first lady, along with celebrity chef Rachael Ray, speak about her personal and professional life as part of a book tour for her new memoir, “Becoming.”
In addition to discussing her childhood and family, Obama spoke about her college education, health activism and challenges she has faced as an African-American woman.
She said while she grew up in a loving household, not all women are so fortunate to be surrounded by the kind of men she was. Obama said she holds the men in her life to the standard set by her father.
“Imagine walking around the world trying to raise your kids and go to work covered in scars — that’s how women live,” Obama said. “It’s not just the job of the mother, it’s the job of the men in her life to make her feel loved. When I met Barack Obama, my bar was high.”
Obama graduated from Princeton University in 1985 with an undergraduate degree in sociology and went on to earn her law degree three years later from Harvard. She then practiced law at Sidley Austin in Chicago where she mentored a young lawyer, Barack Obama.
“You go from being a normal citizen to the moment you are watching your husband, before your very eyes, become the president of the United States,” Obama said.
During her time in the White House, Obama said she fought for healthier lifestyles for children after observing her own children’s habits, including drinking sugary drinks and watching too much television. With the current administration rolling back these efforts, she hopes parents are educated enough to implement healthy habits at home.
“We have to be aware of what health looks like for our kids,” Obama said. “We have to shift from what we’re buying so that (fast food companies) will stop killing our kids.”
Obama spoke about her feelings on the current administration, saying it was difficult to watch the transition from what she and former President Obama were trying to accomplish to President Trump’s actions.
“To sit on that stage (for Trump’s inauguration) and see this version of America was painful,” Obama said.
In her closing comments, Obama said she wants Americans to remain hopeful for the future of the nation and politically active throughout this administration.
“We have been through worse,” Obama said. “We are still a country becoming, we aren’t there yet. We still need to remain hopeful and active. Change doesn’t happen passively.”