“So, let’s just di-dive in.” An initial hesitation and then the same sentence, repeated without hesitation, and a deep laugh in the middle. The opening song enters and Michelle Obama “dives” into the inaugural episode of the podcast that bears her name and which debuted this Wednesday exclusively on Spotify. “After Barack’s second term ended, I finally had some time to breathe,” explains the former US first lady. Michelle adds that in the next episodes she will be talking to her mother, brother, friends and colleagues. At four minutes, she welcomes her husband, former President Barack Obama.
Michelle and Barack spent “a lot of time together in quarantine” and play with that before pointing out the differences and similarities in their growth. She was in a poorer environment than him, but both came from families that were true “communities” and established children as “priority”, making “sacrifices” for them in a “loving environment”. Barack says that when Mrs. Smith misbehaved, she complained to her mother. “Your values begin to be defined by those who are closest to you. My mother deeply believed that everyone deserves love, praise and support ”, says the ex-President.
“You are cute, but one of the reasons I fell in love with you was that you were guided by the principle that we care for our brothers and sisters. And that’s how I was brought up, ”says Michelle. Then the conversation addresses financial issues and Michelle’s initial misunderstanding that Barack is not after money, despite his “academic prowess”. Michelle herself later recognizes that the time in her life when she felt most fulfilled was when she worked for nonprofits in Chicago. “Many kids had never seen Lake Michigan or never been downtown because of racism, segregation, gangs … I was one of those kids,” says Michelle.
For Barack, “culturally” society focused “more on things and less on relationships and family” and “being an adult and a citizen is giving up something”. The former President feels that “everyone is feeling this uncertainty, this anxiety, this perception that what we are doing is not working as it should”. And it is then that he presents two “competing ideas”. One is to blame others. The other is “to embrace those values that made everyone better in the 50s, 60s and 70s”.
But Barack’s proposal is to “broaden that basic perception” to “genuinely” include everyone, removing “the sales of racism, sexism, homophobia and all that stuff”. What he suggests is the return to a “network of relationships in the community” so that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” and “everyone has a little more”. This is what you see in the protests that swept America following the assassination of African American George Floyd. The young people who demonstrate have this “instinct”, this notion that “things can still go one way or the other in this country”, he defends. At a more global level, this restless generation is trying to understand “how to live in community in a world that is shrinking”.
Michelle interrupts him to express his concern for “young people who question whether voting and politics are worthwhile” in a society without a functioning public health system and social security and with high unemployment rates. “The danger for this generation is that it will become deeply cynical towards the government”, sentences Barack to, almost in unison, both agree that “we did not institutionalize the values that we taught this generation”.
The episode, which is almost 49 minutes long, is mainly a reflection on the current state of American society and the couple opens a discussion regarding the importance of the community to serve this purpose. “We cannot build infrastructure alone, we cannot deal with a pandemic alone. There are certain things that we cannot do alone because they are too big and too expensive, ”says Barack.
At one point, Donald Trump’s predecessor in the White House is optimistic. “You are the eternal optimist. You are the ‘yes, we can’ man, ”says Michelle in a playful tone. Barack confirms: “I am the ‘yes, we can’ man. I have the audacity of hope ”. And Michelle ends up surrendering: “What is the alternative? That is the point. As cynical as I may be, in the end I agree. ”
There is no direct mention of Trump, just a veiled and humorous reference. “As a former President who reads and knows history… Let’s take this moment to pause and think about it… As that person, you understand the arc of progress. We are moving towards greater inclusion, greater openness. It is not a simple path. It is rugged and uncomfortable. That’s how change happens. It is made of ups and downs ”, sums up Michelle.
In closing, the hostess insists that the human being “was not made to fulfill this thing called life in a vacuum”, urging society to “live this life as a us”. The guest replies that it is even “more fun” and that it ends up bearing fruit.