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tv   First Ladies Influence Image - Michelle Obama  CSPAN  July 13, 2020 12:02pm-1:26pm EDT

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madison establishing the basis for judicial review in which federal courts to invalidate acts of lower courts when they violate the constitution. and then scott versus sanford, a case that declared that dred scott and other black people could not be u.s. citizens and that congress lacked the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories. watch land mork cases tonight on c-span3 and any time at after michelle obama left the white house, she wrote her auto b autobiography "becoming" and she was asked to speak to the group about her life and time in the white house. ♪ >> we come into this house and there is so much to do. there is so much coming at you that there is no time to think
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or reflect. >> hi, everyone. we're here digging up soil because we're about to plant a garden. >> i won't be satisfied, nor will my husband until every single veteran and military spouse who wants a job has one. >> at the end of the day, my most important title is still mom-in-chief. [ applause ] >> in 2008, barack obama was elected as our 44th president and he and first lady michelle obama went into the history books as the first african-american first couple. now one year into a second obama term, the first lady continues her focus on childhood obesity and support for military families and access to education. good evening and welcome. well tonight is the final installment in our year-long series first lady, influence and image and we finish with the current first lady, michelle obama. for the next 90 minutes we'll learn about her biography and
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her six years so far. let me introduce you to the two guests. and they're both journalists who have covered the first lady. liza mundy is biographer and her 2008 book was called "michelle" and krissah thompson covers the first lady as her beat. thank you for coming tonight. we're start our program with a clip from 2008. michelle obama in a campaign speech talking about her own personal story. let's watch. >> all of my life i've con fronted people who have a certain expectation of me. every step of the way there was somebody there telling me what i couldn't do. applied to princeton, you can't go there. your test scores aren't high enough. oh, i went. i graduated with departmental honors. wrong. [ applause ] and then i wasn't supposed to go to harvard. that was probably a little too tough for me.
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i don't know why they said that. but i could go through every curve and twist and turn of my life and find somebody that was telling me lower your expectations, such your sights low, you're not ready, you can't do that. and every time i push past other people's limited expectations of me, and reached for things that i knew i could do and grab my seat at the table that others felt so entitled to, what i learned was that there is no magic to these people who feel so much more ready than me. i was just as ready, always just as prepared as anyone at that table. >> we are going to talk about her biography but this was before she went to the campaign trail and both of you have observing her professionally. when you watch the 2008 michelle obama, the pre-white house
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michelle obama, how has she grown in the job and changed her approach from the public from what we see in that clip. >> well, i think she's become more optimistic and positive. i had a hard time her saying something like that today. in that clip almost like there is something called imposter syndrome when people aren't supposed to be where they are and it takes them a lot to get over that, to realize, wow, i'm just as good as everybody else because maybe you came from a background where you weren't expected to be in this place. and if she felt any of that, she's certainly gotten over it. she seems comfortable in where sher. >> krissah thompson, what do you think. >> i think some of the rough edges have been polished off. when she's talking to young people, she's definitely say, people didn't believe in me at
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different points in my life but i showed them that i could overcome and i made these achievements anyway and this line there is no magic to this. she said that often. so people know she could close this gap between where she came from and where she is and that kids can do the same thing. >> in your book, you say early on that michelle obama once said of politics that sometimes it is a waste of time and she has become over time her husband's trusted political adviser andoch his surrogate. when did that transformation happen? >> that is a really good question. she came from chicago, which is a city of machine politics, a city not politically just or fair to its african-american residents. she had a lot of reason to be skeptical of politics when she was growing up and her family was famously skeptical of politics to the point of where barack obama when he confessed
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to craig robinson, don't tell aunt gracy. keep that under your hat. and i think -- she even described herself in 2007 as having been sort of the last one to accept or know that barack obama was really going to run for president. so i think it must have come during the presidential campaign, really. >> do you agree? >> i do. there is a idea that she was a relubt lu -- reluctant campaign because they had two young daughters and thinking of the sacrifices that would have to be made. she had been through a campaign for senate that took them all across the state and her mom had to step up in many ways and help with the daughters. so when you think about taking that to the nation, there was a lot to consider and she didn't -- she counted the cost, you could put it that way. but then i'm told, once she
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signed on, she was all in. so it wasn't that this reluctance continued throughout. >> when we started out the series we promised it would be from martha washington to michelle obama to cover the full span of the first ladies throughout history. obviously this one is a challenge tonight because it is a sitting first lady. the story has not been told nor is there some distance in time to judge her legacy in history so we're going to spend some time on her biography and how she used her first six years in the white house and we do invite your calls along the way. let about politics and more about biography as we have been throughout the series and join in by telephone, 202-585-2880 and 3881 in the mountain or pacific time zone including hawaii, the president's home state and you could find us on twitter at first ladies is our twitter address and facebook is another opportunity. there is already a conversation
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on the facebook page about michelle obama and you could join that and we'll mix in comments throughout the program. so we're going to her biography. she was born when and where? >> she was born in chicago in 1964. >> she just had her 50th birthday. so it was january 17th. >> right. >> and you reference this, but what was 1960 chicago like for the robinson family. >> it was a very segregated city still. she grew up on the south side of chicago. there were a lot of different neighborhoods and migrants, different ethnic neighborhoods and redlining. the city was just opening up a little bit so her family when she was still small was able to move into a neighborhood that had been a white neighborhood. and craig has said and neighbors have said they remember the white family started moving away from families like the robinsons were moving in. and they would have been aware of that. they would have been aware that
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opportunities were opening up for better neighborhoods, better schools, but at the same time, there was a white flag going on that they would have in some way aware was happening. >> frazier robinson, died in 1991 and mother mary robinson who lives at the white house and we don't see her too often but she's part of the first family. we have a clip about michelle obama talking about her father. if you watch the democratic convention in 2020 you may remember this speech. let's listen in. >> my father was a pump operator at the city water plant and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when my brother and i were young. and even as a kid, i know there were plenty of days when he was in pain. and i knew there were plenty of mornings when it was a struggle for him to simply get out of bed. but every morning i watched my father wake up with a smile,
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grab his walker, prop himself up against the bathroom sink and slowly shave and button his uniform. and when he returned home after a long day's work my brother and i would stand at the top of the stairs of our little apartment, patiently waiting to greet him, watching as he reached down to lift one leg and then the other to slowly climb his way into our arms. but despite these challenges, my dad hardly ever missed a day of work. he and my mom were determined to give me and my brother the kind of education they could only dream of. [ applause ] and when my brother and i finally made it to college nearly all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. but my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition himself and every semester, he was determined to pay that bill
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right on time, even taking out loans when he fell short. he was so proud to be sending his kids to college. and he made sure we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. you see, for my dad, that's what it meant to be a man. >> so a lot to follow up with there. but let's start with her father and his influence on her life. if you look at the obamas as a couple, the interesting comparison is that barack obama really didn't know his father at all. and it seems from what we can see there that for michelle obama, her father was a very important influence. >> her father was a central figure and both of her parents. her brother described their childhood as being a shangri-la of chicago where parents spent lots of time with them. they weren't leaving the kids with babysitters when they went out for entertainment, they did it together. they built the kids' self-esteem
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and made it seem like they were wonderful people to be around and that kind of confidence infused in their lives. they played board games, took family trips. there was a much broader robinson clan in town and so they knew all of their relatives and went to visit and just kind of described a really warm family centered childhood and their dad was at the heart of that. >> now, she described him as the pump operator but he was also part of the precinct democratic precinct arrangement in the city of chicago, highly political city. so what was his job and how did that influence the family's understanding of politics and what it could do. >> he was a precinct captain. so he would go around and in some ways a community organizer like barack obama. get people out and get people to vote. and neighbors said that he was a joking man.
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that he that he had a very good sense of humor and he was an extrovert. and to get the pump operator job, with the city machine, that you would get a city job would be through your political help. and the other thought i had about both of her parents is one -- having a good city job meant for them that michelle obama's mom could stay home with the children and in a way that many women in their community were not able to do so. african-americans have a longer tradition of having to go out to work. and so i think that -- that when she had children, she asked herself, should i be home with my daughters the way that my mother was home with me. but i think it probably made her father's job seem all the more valuable to have. >> could i just add to that because i think that is an
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important point. about her mom. she was a stay-at-home mom but also had a couple of years of teachers college so she was able to kind of home school her children before home schooling was popular in the way that we think about it and both of them skipped early grades in elementary school and so you see things happening in this family early that are different. >> so both children went to princeton and michelle went on to harvard law school. where did that emphasis on education come from. >> her parents. they were really clear this is the road to get ahead. and her brother in his book writes about his mom teaching them to read at home and doing math tables and that kind of thing. so when they got to school, even as early as first and secondary grades, they were already steps ahead of everyone else and that just kind of continues along with their own hard work, of course, through high school. but they're excelling really
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early on. >> and when michelle obama got into a magnet school that what in a different part of chicago at a early age she had to take several modes of transportation to get to her high school and leave really early in the morning in the winter. >> an hour long bus ride she's talked about to get to school. and during 2008, "the washington post" wrote a big story about the genealogy of michelle obama's family tracing it back to slave in georgetown, south carolina. question for both of you because you've both written about this, the arc robinson family life is the arc of black history in america. in ways that barack obama's life is not. so can you comment about that and what we see in the robinson family and part of the great migration in the '40s and '50s, et cetera and how we should understand their experience? >> do you want to go first?
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>> you go. you may know more about the family from south carolina on to chicago and just that arc. we do know that for african-americans the fact that her story is rooted in relatives that were enslaved has been very important and connected to just her relationship with the community in general. i mean, when you look back to 2008, there were some questions early on about is barack obama black enough and you never heard that sort of thing about michelle obama, of course. and i think part of that is rooted in the more traditional african-american experience. and so in that way she kind of serves as a validator for him in many ways. >> in chicago politics. >> so that was important. >> so what do you want to add about the robinson family history? >> just as you say.
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i mean, her family's history is quintessential in that some of her family stayed in georgetown and she has relatives that are still there. there was a train depot very close to town and some -- at least one of her male ancestors, i think it would have been -- her great grandfather traveled to chicago because that is where the trains went. and was able to settle in the south side where there was the meat packing plants and the stock yards and all of the industrial labor, there is still a lot of racism and different wage scales for white and black men but it was better than the south. and then the robinson family was able to establish a very broad and rooted family in chicago so that when she and barack obama were first going out, that was his -- that was a real epiphany for him, an experience to be in such a rooted family where your
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uncles were coming around and people were visiting with each other. it is just a different family life than he had experienced. >> before we leave her childhood years, adrian wilber asked mrs. obama is into having children exercise more, did she play any sports when she was younger. >> she did ballet in high school and she danced. and her brother writes a little bit about this in his book describing his sister as being very competitive, she wanted to win board games and foot races and that kind of thing. and if my recollection is right, part of the reason she didn't continue -- no, let me pause. she said that she didn't do many sports in high school and beyond because, like liza said, she was taking the bus back and forth and to would have kept her at school to late to do some of those after-school extracurricular programs. >> because craig went to a different high school, a parochial school where she could
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play basketball. and she said she resisted playing basketball because she was tall and people thought she would be likely to be basketball. >> and not being able to beat her brother. >> the first lady is 5'11". do you have any idea when she was playing? >> let me take a couple of calls and learn about her days at princeton and then law school and meeting the future president. kathy is in aurora, colorado. >> caller: good evening. thank you very much for your program. i've been watching since martha washington until now. my comment is that i am a romantic and i see some the presidents and their wives seem to show a lot of love and all of this and for instance pat and richard nixon, they didn't seem -- i think he loved her but he just didn't show it and i could see it with michelle and president obama. that they really do love one
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another. it is not a phoney. i think they do care for each other and enjoy each other's company and that is just my comment. and i think that this is so important for the people of the united states or any kind of country to say, hey, these two people do love one another and i don't care if you're a republican or democrat, i think it is so important that they do show that they do care and don't put on a show. >> thank you, kathy. also, since we've been moving through history with this series, have society standards changed where we're more welcoming of seeing the emotional, personal side of the people in the white house than we might have been? >> i think so. in part just because of reality television if nothing else, right. we're so intimately involved with people that we don't know well and in some ways people feel like they know the obamas and their relationship because it is on public display and something of the same way.
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we catch wind when they're on date night. we know that last weekend they had an early valentine's day dinner and that kind of thing and that is out in the public and people see them warmly touching each other and hugging and even his campaign at one point sent out a photo of them together hugging one another, both embracing one another and that just went viral. and then there were pieces in newspapers, sort of thinking about what it means to see a kind of modern marriage in the white house. and considering those ideas. >> well, add the other layer to that, a modern marriage in the white house and an african-american couple. you write in one of your article that valerie jared, with the first lady since the beginning, said they're cognizant of this role model of important that they have. and would you comment about then how much of this is a conscience
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effort? >> i think it is very conscience. and it is not just for young people who have been a focus of both the president and first lady but also for families. there is so much talk now about how you do family well in this country. and they understand that people are hungry for that information. how do you raise well adjusted teenagers and to have a woman doing that in the white house and you know kind of giving parenting tips, just the other day she parenting tips to justin beiber's mother. people want that kind of information and i think it also provides some of that sort of personal connection that this white house has done. i would say really well in helping people to feel like the white house is the people's house and this is a family that could be the family next door and that you could relate to. >> and it is really the first fully social media white house. they have advantages on social
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media that past presidents did not so we've seen a lot of them in a lot of different forms than we have of earlier presidents and first ladies. john is in houston. you're on the air. >> caller: hey, i call. this show is great and i called during the helen taft show. my questions are after they kill osama bin laden, when they saw the pictures, what was his reaction, what was her reaction and will they ever release them and how come they never released them. thank you. >> thank you very much. do either of you know whether or not she had a reaction about -- >> no idea. if i'm remembering correctly, he was at the white house correspondents dinner and she went out to dinner with his sister maybe. so we don't know anything about the private reactions to the photos. we do know they were not in the white house. >> keith in greenup, illinois.
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hi, keith. >> caller: hi. it is obviously, thank you for taking my call, first of all, it is obviously that michelle and barack obama are really good parents and i was appalled with that ad campaign that came out this last election that was talking about their kids was getting special treatment and this and that and they should have, they're the president's children. but how did that affect michelle and how did she maintain and not just go viral on tv after that was done? >> thank you very much. >> i think i know what he's referring to. i believe it was the nra, it could have been another organization when we were in the midst of the gun rights debate, produced, i think it is a web ad an not an ad for television that asked them questions about the president's daughters being guarded by secret service and men who were carrying guns and
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why shouldn't other young people have armed guards in their schools. and i believe the president himself reacted and said that he didn't think those sort of ads were appropriate. but this brings up an interesting point about just how protective this white house has been of the obama daughters. and you could see some very fine lines. there was some companies that tried to create some dolls named sasha and malia and the white house quickly shut that down. so the sort of things that the daughters are off limits has been pretty true to form. >> and also interesting, and i have to move the story along here, but farther back in history there were some that embraced having the children available and making advertisements and the like so that is another storyline that we've seen evolve over the white house. >> although first ladies have handed down advice.
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>> we have her at princeton. so she's a successful student at princeton at a time there were about 90 african-americans on campus to 1,100. one of the things that stayed with her in politics is her thesis. because she was a sociology major and she wrote on the subject of black princeton alumni. would you talk about that thesis and how it evolved into a political tool for the opposition. >> yeah. and i have to say, as someone who was at princeton about the same time and wrote a thesis, the thought that it would end up in the public view and be sort of used against you, is sort of boggles the mind. not something you would think that would happen when you were struggling through your senior thesis. but she was on the campus at an interesting time. the campus has opened up to women, to african-americans students, to a more diverse
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student body. but there was definitely resistance and backlash against that. it is way time when students at campus didn't have a lot of experience, haven't traveled a lot and so we're coming to campus and made aware of their difference in a way that they had never been made aware before. so her thesis, talking about the fact that for the first time on the campus of princeton she realized that she was black seems completely unsurprising to me and yet -- and it is interesting, it is a sociology experiment where she was writing alumni and saying, did you feel now that the -- before you graduated and while you were here and afterwards did you feel more comfortable with white or black people and what kind of responsibility do you feel to the lower income black community. she was working out all of these changes and questions that she was asking herself in a way that seems to me so normal. and that so many other students
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of different gender or racial groups or ethnic groups would also be asking themselves on this campus. exposed to a lot of people. >> you're making a big class jump and you have to say what does that mean and what does that look like and how do i stay connected to where i come from which is really important to me and also move into some of the opportunities that are ahead of me. >> but the lesson in american politics today for the highest office in the land is anything is fair game, right? >> that is true. >> so she moves from princeton to harvard and decides to study law. what took her in the direction of law? >> i think really part of it was what -- everybody on the campus said if you weren't sure what you were going to do, you went to law school. and i think also for many people at that point, you thought the civil rights act was not that old and you thought i'll change the world, that will be what i
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do if i go to law school. but there a strong conformist push to law school at that time and i did interview nnd administrator there at princeton who knew her well and tried to talk her out of going to law school. and eventually she said michelle did call her when she was saying you were probably right. >> but she choose to go back to chicago and get a job at a corporate law firm that specialized in telecommunications law so she took a conventional path with her law degree. >> she did. but i think getting back to the what do i owe my community and what will make my parents proud, she and craig were part of the first generation of african-americans citizens who did have the opportunity to go into corporate america or work for a corporate law firm and have access to this kind of a job in a way that their parents had not. so they asked themselves, should i take advantage of that opportunity now or should i go back and work on behalf of my community and the community that i came from and i think that is something that she's wrestled
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with ever since. >> i'm going to take a telephone call. lisa in portland, oregon, you're on the air. >> caller: hi. her brother craig lives here in oregon and i'm wondering if you're fairly certain that she and the president is going to return to chicago? >> do we know? they're beginning to talk about what they'll do. >> i think we don't know where they'll end up. they have talked about perhaps staying in washington. right after his term ends because they're youngest daughter will still have a couple of years in high school and after having uprooted their lives to come here, for, as the president said, to fulfill his dream, that some other members of the family will kind of come first and deciding where they go next. so i think we can look for their youngest daughter sasha to have quite a bit of input into where they end and whether eventually they make their way back to
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chicago or oregon or hawaii or any number of places. i think we can't be sure. >> laura is in huntsville, georgia, hi laura. >> caller: hi. thank you, thank you so much. i lived in indiana in 2008 and michelle obama came to speak. and it was a group of us for obama and there was about 150 of us and she spoke of a high school and everyone in that room had tears. she was just amazing. she is amazing. and i really enjoyed the series. i've been watching it ever since martha washington. and thank you so much. thank you. >> laura, thanks for your telephone call. she taked a job at sidly, the big law firm in chicago and it was a fateful decision because she meets a young summer law
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intern from harvard. would you tell the story about how they met and how long he pursued her. >> right. he was a summer associate and she was a boss. his supervisor, so i think like modern workplace laws would not permit this relationship to develop. but in fact, i think he was taken with her, her colleagues who i interviewed became aware that in sort of the late afternoons they would walk by her office and he would be perched on her desk and they could tell that something was developing. and i don't think it took too long actually before they were going out and both smitten with each other. >> but they didn't marry for four years. >> that is right. because he was -- he to go back to law school. so she was in chicago. she was going back to harvard law. and so there were several years where they were not necessarily living in the same town. and she does tell a funny story about herself where she began to
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pressure him and they were going out to dinner in chicago and she sort of started in on the when are we going to get married and for a while he would say marriage is just a word, et cetera. so she started in. and then with the dessert, a ring was delivered with the dessert and she tells the story on herself, that did shut me up. >> they were married in 1992 and in michelle obama's church which would become part of the political story, the trinity united church of christ and the pastor there, jeremiah wright, how did their story become important to the obamas politically. >> it is an important part of the 2008 campaign. it really speaks to, i think in so many ways, this kind of latent question that was always out there, is america ready for african-americans in the white
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house, is america ready for a black president? and so in some ways jeremiah wright stands in as a kind of charge point for that question. he comes out of a kind of strain of african-american pastors in thinking black liberation, theology, where there were many radical sermons which were excerpted and lines taken from them that become a huge political problem for the obamas. but he was also a man who, for a time, had quite a bit of influence on them. president obama takes -- when he is in the u.s. senate takes the title of his second book,o dasity to open comes from the sermon and the reverend is talking about the idea of not having very much but hoping anyway and holding on to hope. and so these are some of the
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kind of ideas that connect them to him and the church but when this breaks open in the campaign, if we all remember, there is really a large national conversation about race that begins. >> they were married in 1992, the first daughter didn't arrive until 1998. what was life like for the young people in those six years. >> they were working very hard. at acertain point i think barack obama helped persuade michelle obama that she could leave corporate law and sidly and do something less conventional and more interesting, that she didn't have to follow a really kind of predictable path. and i think that is one thing that he did for her. at the same time that she gave a very rooted family, this sense of belonging and chicago and i think he gave her a sense of what was possible for her. so she took a job in the city
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government and then took a job with a nonprofit called public allies. and for that period, he was teaching at the law school and getting started in political and they were working very hard and intensely. they are two intense people. >> is it true that she was also serving on corporate boards so she -- i read in a biography she served on several corporate boards. >> i think one was a dance board. i'm not sure about the corporate boards. >> so when barack obama moves from community organizers into elective politics, how supportive was michelle. >> i have a quote from the aud asity of hope after sasha is born, michelle would often say, you only think about yourself and i never thought i would have to raise a family alone. and this is an argument, this kind of classic marital argument
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that happened in their household repeatedly during this time because she was shouldering so much of the weight of raising a family. >> and supporting the family. >> right. and so this is a difficult point for them in their marriage and kind of what he's going to do with his life. >> and not the first time in the history of the first ladies where the political wife is left to really raise the family as the husband is pursuing a political career so it is a commitment on part of both spouses to pursue this. >> and there have been first ladies that prayed for their husband's defeat. >> it doesn't feel like she was in that camp. >> not quite. >> sandy is in clarksville, tennessee, hi, sandy. >> caller: hello. i want to commend you for doing an excellent series and i'm very proud that you've done this. the question i have is probably two fold. the main one is the presidential
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libraries, after the president and first lady will end their service, are they opted to do it either in hon lieolulu or chica >> would you be more likely to know. >> no one knows. but they have formed a committee to begin to think about the library. and where it would be. and they'll begin soliciting, i guess you would call them bids, from cities in different locations. and chicago is on the list. i hear that new york is also vying, president obama spent time in columbia and hawaii and there are other cities that passed through that are hoping. but there is a sense that chicago makes sense in part because the political start was there. they got their roots. but it doesn't feel like at this point that it is been completely settled. and even within chicago there
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are different locations hoping to eventually win the library. >> we're going to fast forward through the obama's life, his time as a state senator in illinois and then bid for the u.s. senate and successful bid and coming to washington and then the decision to start running for president during his first term in the united states senate. how much a part of that decision was michelle obama? was this something that the two of them strategized together and made the decision together to do? >> he had convince her, according to the way her brother tells the story, first barack obama went to michelle obama's brother craig robinson and had a conversation with him like, you know, i think this is the opportunity. i think i should do this. and he says have you talked to your wife? and barack obama said i thought you could help me with that. and so craig robinson sort of floats with both his mother and his sister this idea. and in some ways like in the
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book it describes as paving the way. and as a family they made the decision that this is something they would do with counselors and strategists. >> we're going back to the 2008 wisconsin speech with michelle obama out on the campaign trail. because another part of that speech is -- contains a section that stayed with this first lady throughout her tenure in washington. let's listen in. >> what we've learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. it is making a comeback and let me tell you something for the first time in my adult lifetime, i'm really proud of my country. and not just because barack has done well, but because i think people are hungry for change. and i have been desperate to see our country moving in that
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direction. and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. i've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic, common issues and it is made me proud. >> and i'll tell you that tonight on our facebook page, lot of people were quoting that line back these years later. it has stayed with people as their view of how she thinks about american society. has she talked about what she was saying there and what she was trying to say? >> i think she did. i think she did soon after talk a bit about that. and, in fact, at the time, she had said -- expressed the same sentiment in different ways. what happened in that moment was the political press hadn't been paying much attention to her from day-to-day. she was out mostly speaking to grassroots and supporters. i saw her a couple of times on the campaign trail, got applause from crowds, people enjoyed hearing her in part because
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unlike the candidate, she wasn't so strictly messaged. she just kind of spoke from her heart without a lot of notes and at that time the democratic grassroots found that refreshing and then come this is moment where this one line is from this speech and it begins to define her and the campaign gear has to immediately snap into action and began to create a different story around her because one emerges that is not favorable. >> any comments on that narrative and how defined her and then how the opposition used it to create a narrative about the president as well. >> right. and so it sort of lined up with they would -- the princeton thesis and reverend wright and all sort of used as allegedly evidence that she was unhappy
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with america. i think to me where that line came out of, she was talking a lot of that time about racial division, if she was on a college campus, she would say there are white and black students sitting together and you need to come together and america being isolated so people fighting a war, the people at home were going shopping and the twain were meeting. and there was a sense of coming together that still needed to happen. i think that is where that came from and the campaign kicked into gear after that. there was not another episode like that. >> so during the primary, hillary clinton was primary rival of barack obama. would you comment a bit about this interesting relationship of a former first lady who is now a presidential candidate, and ultimately is defeated by this opponent then goes on to serve as his secretary of state and has a first lady that she could
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give to and how did that work out. >> it is interesting, during the 2008 primary campaign is becomes a dog fight towards the end. they're grasping. and it got ugly at some points. and you had two really defined camps within the democratic party. and there were the clintonites and the obamaites and there was question about who everyone would come together in a very natural way and this idea that hillary clinton would serve as secretary of state did a lot in terms of mending those bridges. and early on in the obamas term, michelle obama goes over to the state department and they have some interaction in a very warm to each other publicly and that is another moment of coming together. michelle obama has been a very
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different kind of first lady than hillary clinton was. and so in many ways she's relied on laura bush's team to give her staff early on guidance about how things would operate in the east wing. because hillary clinton had an office in the west wing which was different than the way she planned to set things up. >> after the reverend wright controversy, they went to nbc and talked to the "today" show about the issue and we got a chance, one of many chances to see them interacting as a couple. we'll show a short clip from that and then talk about how they used and the campaign the national media to present a portrait of themselves. let's watch. >> so you never get up set about these -- >> never. i never get up set. do i get up set. >> she gets a little upset. >> no. >> she stops reading the newspapers during certain spans
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of time. >> and i ball it up and i throw it in a corner. you know, of course, there are frustrations. >> she gets protective of me. >> i do. >> okay. >> i love my husband. you don't want anybody talking poorly about the people that you love. >> right. >> and quite frankly i think he's handled this stuff. i mean, this -- i'm so proud of how he is maintained his dignity, his cool, his honor. >> so i -- >> i know you're trying to cut me off when i'm talking nicely about you. >> it gets me embarrassed. but -- >> but i am proud of you. >> i know. i appreciate that. >> should we take away from this and other experiences like that that the public saw through the national media. >> it is interesting to see them interacting with each other. the playfulness there, the way that they -- and sometimes pick at each other and joke with each
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other. and seem to genuinely enjoy being together. and i think that more than anything that idea of this family and this relationship in addition to president obama addressing some of the issues around the reverend wright controversy head on in the speech that he gave on race did much to, you know, toss that issue out of the window and lead him right to the white house. >> so, john mccain choose sarah palin as his vice presidential pick and i'm wondering about whether or not that engendered a national dialogue about the role of women that happened during the 2008 campaign. >> yes. but i wouldn't say it was a coherent conversation about the role of women. one thing that struck me about michelle obama compared to hillary clinton is she did define herself as mom in chief and that had a big effect on her change in image. before the 2008 election, she still polled -- her polls were
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high with democratic women and men and but after the lauks and the inauguration was that favorable rose with conservative women and so i think presenting herself as a mother first and foremost did a lot to change her image and to soft an her it's also something that women of hillary clinton's generation could not say of themselves. hillary clinton was of a generation where you couldn't even have a photo of your children on your desk if you wanted to be seen as a credible working woman. >> because you were too soft. >> right. and you would remind people you had children and you weren't supposed to do that in the 1980s. i really felt like that was a generational difference between the two women. >> we're going to look next at the 2008 convention where people of both parties, political junkies who watched and sized up the candidates and independents, as well, had a chance to see michelle obama in long form before this national audience. what is struck me when i first met barack is that even though he had this funny name, and even though he had grown up across
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the continent in hawaii, his family was so much like mine. he was raised by grand parents who were working class folks just like my parents. and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. like my family, they scrimped and saved so he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves. and barack and i were raised with so many of the same values. like you work hard for what you want in life. that your word is your bond. that you do what you say you're going to do. that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them and even if you don't agree with them. >> so what was she doing there? >> introducing herself and her husband to the american public. >> she started out with the
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funny name and really -- >> she did a lot of that early on in the campaign. the role of the first lady in the modern campaign has been to humanize, if that's a real word, the candidate, so help people connect with who he is as a 5fn person. you know, what he's all about, somewhat he's like at home. in her campaign stump speech when she traveled around, she would talk about, he leaves his socks out sometimes. you know, he snores and that kind of thing. like he's a real guy. you know, and talking about him as a man. >> and i think in her case it was more important because she was also americanizing him. she was confirming okay, this guy has a funny name. i thought he had a funny name too when i first heard of him.
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when i met him, he was just as american as you and me. he has a mid western family. so i think she walked the audience through that process. >> david is watching us from utah. your question? >> thanks, susan. i want to thank c-span and the white house historical association for this series. i've learned a lot about our first ladies. i know one of the issues that michelle obama has been interested in is military families. ist just wondering if the panelists wonder where that issue originated from and how she's influenced military families today. >> yes. so michelle obama got involved with the issue of military families really early on. during that campaign she talks about having met, and in many cases women who were raising their families without their husbands who were away at war and being moved by their
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sacrifices. so wanting to do something for not only the veterans, but their families who were left behind in realizing that like herself, most americans don't have relatives who are starving in the military. so she, along with jill biden, joe biden's wife, who do have children who served, joined forces, which is the name of the program which serves military families. they've done more than just visit families and go to bases. she went to the business roundtable and spoke to ceos there of top companies about the need to hire more veterans and their families, and got some companies to sign pledges to say how many they would hire. so it's a program that's many facetted. and she says she plans to
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continue it throughout her time in the white house. >> so 2008 election night, the obamas are victorious. we have one of those iconic pictures of the fist bump that people remember seeing. can you comment a bit about the historical significance of that night? >> well, you know, they were going to be in history books regardless because they're first. and so there comes the moment when the history is made and you see in the photos of grant park this sense of jubilation amongst their supporters there. it's still a very divide electorate. but you heard afterwards many people on both sides of the aisle who felt pride in the country for having at least eclipsed that barrier, and as the president himself said, you know, he thinks people were excited about that for -- i think he said something like for
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five minutes. then they wanted to know what you're going to do. i think they both faced that pretty quickly, this idea that they did not only want to be history making or having achieved this really remarkable, you know, feat of being the first, but then to be the legacy that's greater than that. >> and remembering they came in during the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. so people were wanting to get to work. so we had an interview at c-span with the first lady in 2009 shortly after she took over in the job where she talked about her approach to it. let's listen in. >> i think every first lady brings their unique perspective to this job. if you didn't, you couldn't live through it. i think to the extent that this feels natural to me, at any level that i never would have thought that living in the white house and being first lady would
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feel natural, it's because i try to make it me. i try to bring a little bit of michelle obama into this, but at the same time respecting and valuing the tradition that is america's. >> as you mentioned earlier, they reached out to laura bush for ways in which they might emulate some of the approach which tee shk to the role of first lady when she came to the white house. >> just how things work in the house. it's a significant institution, and michelle obama, unlike some other first ladies, had not been a governor's wife, so did not have the experience of really setting up shop and home in that way. so she has to figure out how to do that. nancy reagan came in for -- i think they had lunch, and i'm told system of nancy reagan's advice was, have lots of state dinners. so she does kind of talk to those who know, as she prepares
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for this role. >> early on, the first lady went out to visit various cabinet agencies. also homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the city, meeting local officials. we have an article that you kro wrote, chris thompson, about another thing she did, she really lived in washington, d.c. you've got a story that was called michelle obama's washington, with a graphic, that all the places in the washington metropolitan area that she visited, went out to work in, made speeches in. how does that differ from other first families in this town? >> it was interesting. she clearly made this place home. and i was able to talk to her staff about that, you know. it was the nonprofits, visiting the agencies, but also going out to restaurants with girlfriends and her daughters being in school here, so she was at
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soccer games and catching shows at local theaters and that sort of thing, just getting to know the city as a place outside of federal washington, and that's become not only rare for first families but for political families in washington in general where you have folks that were jetting back to their homes every weekend, and the idea of spending time in washington is bad for your political life, but she made -- has made a concerted effort to get to know this place and this city, this town, and, you know, as i was putting the list together of all the places she had been, i had colleagues saying she's been to more restaurants in town than i have. so she has not allowed the swhous to sort of be as martha washington said like a prison, though martha washington wasn't in the white house, but the idea you can't get outside this bubble, she's found ways to do
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that. >> including famously visiting places like target in the washington, d.c. suburbs. is she alone in first ladies doing things like that, are they able to sneak away incognito in this town? >> you know, sometimes for her in terms of being alone with her family and free, it means going to camp david or going someplace where she can walk around and not be -- not be the target of people. >> a lot of modern first ladies have done similar things. laura bush went antiquing in georgetown to check out the shops there and that kind of thing. and so the idea that you have to find some way to, you know, maintain a life outside of just the strictures of the white house. >> bill clinton also famously would go running, not so much hillary clinton, but i felt like the clintons had a presence in
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washington as well, actually. >> so the media really has covered the first lady extensively. we have some graphics of the number of magazine covers that have been done on her. if you look -- you wrote a book that was highly competitive, lots of books coming out about michelle obama. is this the way it will be for first ladies this time forward? or is there something special about this first lady? >> there is an intense interest from the beginning, and i think a willingness to engage the public outside of, you know, the traditional press corps. and the magazine covers are one example of that, everything from "vogue" to "better homes and gardens," so it's just such a broad spectrum.
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you're speaking to those audiences of those magazines, in a very personal way, in the same way she's on univision and on urban radio and talking to people directly. and in some ways just like social media that removes some filters, and she's able to connect that way. >> one thing i want to ask, this is all pretty soft stuff. the covers of women's magazines using social media, you're both journalists who want to kov they are woman and this white house. how accessible have they been to you in that role? >> part of that is bypassing the traditional media and going to soft outlets. which of course are eager to cover. when i was writing my book, not accessible. they were being very, very careful about her public image. it was after the, you know, does she like her country episode, and so they were being very careful about her public appearances, not making her
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accessible. she was not being accessible, and i had to find other ways to report the story. but i think that's really still the case. >> here's another clip that demonstrates the obama administration's approach to the entertainment media really to help leave us with an impression of the first family. let's watch. [ applause ] >> thank you, jeff. and welcome to the white house, everyone. i am so honored to help introduce this year's nominees for best picture. this is my mid life crisis. i couldn't get a sports car, they won't let me bungee jump, so i cut my bangs here. i went for the bangs. ♪
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>> you can take it from me, these foodks help make you a better athlete. >> oh! >> i was just wondering if you can do more pushups than i can do. >> it depends on how your back is. i know you've got these back issues. >> no, no. [ applause ] >> so it has been fascinating during the series since television arrived on the political scene in the late 1950s. you mentioned jacqueline kennedy and her tour of the white house. to watch how the political
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campaigns, the white house having used this medium to portray an image. how is this white house doing, and how has the public being receiving it? >> it's fascinating to look at the ways she especially has collapsed the space between pop culture and politics in the public, in the ways that she has operated in that, creating these videos that go viral on youtube. she's on instagram, but she's not just on instagram, she's like hosting throwback thursday photos. and just really engaging in a way that captures kind of the public imagination. and it's not doing that through the filter of the main stream press. so you're constantly cultivating an image and being very present in the lives of evidence people. and she's a popular figure. i don't know everyone's phone numbers now, but she is probably one of the most popular figures
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within the democratic party. so to have her, you know, be such a public presence, you know, with a team like the miami heat and that basketball thing that got shared around, you know, so much is a really interesting and strategic way to look at the public image. >> i would like to put aside here, some of the key events that happened during the president's term so far. also we have a graphic from pew research that compares to the president's approval ratings and the first lady's.
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>> these are how pew research has tracked the president and first lady's approval ratings. you can see that the president's story has been one of coming down over time, and the first lady has been both higher and consistent along the way. the president, 45. official obama, fairly consistent along the way. to what do we owe that? >> everything that chris has said. the management intending of her public image. as well as to print media. the fact that the family does
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seem to be flourishing. it is and remains a very appealing family tableau. and the issues that she's chosen. i mean, they're not hard issues. they're not mold breaking issues. i think they're in the lines with literacy and sort of traditional first lady programs like that. >> mel in jacksonville, florida. go ahead. >> caller: the question i have for you is concerning mrs. obama and dr. biden. i wonder, they seem to be so recognizable and they work so well together as political wives. but do they ever go out and socialize just the two of them together if they're allowed to go outside the white house together? >> that's an interesting question. i wrote a piece about dr. biden during the 2012 campaign. so got to talk with some of her staff and see her and read up on
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her. she made the point that they worked well together. they're friendly, but they both have very busy lives. so the idea that they're sort of socializing and hanging out very regularly doesn't happen. in addition to being the vice president's wife, which comes with some official duties. joe biden continues to teach at a local community teach. she's an english professor. so often when she was traveling during the campaign, she had her papers with her and grading papers, that kind of thing. i think that idea that they are just enjoying one another's company doesn't happen very often. >> plus, a lesson that the second lady can continue to pursue her career, but something the first lady has not been able to do. laura bush talked about that during the series.
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you mentioned that she chose somewhat noncontroversial issues, including the eating well and the let's move campaign. >> her staff would argue with that. >> i can tell you from facebook comments it is controversial. we have one another clip with her talking to young people at the white house. these were students who were brought in from washington, d.c. and it all happened with a c-span event from our student cam competition. one of the students did a documentary about the let's move concept. and mrs. obama met with students at the white house to talk about it. >> having the platform of the white house is really helpful in getting attention to stuff. a lot of times when i do something, a lot of cameras show up and people tend to watch and write about it. sometimes they write about more than what i'm wearing. so i think it's my job to help shine the light on things that are already working.
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so that's one of the reasons why i chose this as my initiative. i also think that one of the reasons -- the ways that i think we can move this effort, one of the reasons why i think that we can be successful is that it doesn't require, i don't believe, and others may have struggled a bit more, it doesn't require whole scale changes in your life. the beauty about kids, you guys, is that you're young, your metabolisms are really healthy, which essentially means once you start moving and eating right, you're going to, you know, you guys change really quickly. you're growing and everything is working right. so if we make some little changes, get you guys moving more, a little more movement, a little less tv, if we take out sugary drinks and make school lunches better, if we get you guys educated and your families about what to eat, these are all
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things we can control. and it doesn't take millions of dollars and a bunch of legislation to get it done. we don't have to count on people passing stuff, thank god, to move this problem along. >> but to your point, calling sugary drinks a problem for people and -- >> there was a lot of money tied up in the food industry. you know, there's also some strategy in how you address these issues. you know, food politics for those who are involved in it, you know, are very contentious. you see some of this in a debate. this idea that she's a part of the nanny state and telling kids what they can't eat. and the video, she talked about not needing to pass legislation, but she very much was supportive of the legislation that changed school lunches, which in some corners has been a bit controversial.
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they're pretty big changes, aside from some teenagers making videos, complaining about, you know, not having as much junk food at lunch. people are trying to figure out how to implement these things and, you know, there's some support in some corners and not so much in others. >> we have a photograph of the organic garden at the white house. you mentioned that it's going to become a permanent part of the white house grounds, is that right? is it like an eternal garden? >> well, the first lady wrote her gardening book, which made "the new york times" best seller list, at least in the beginning. the proceeds for the book are all going to a foundation that is supportive of the garden. so there is money there to continue to tend it, even after the obamas are no longer in the white house. >> and that's in keeping with
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the tradition of the white house. they're used to animals grazing. >> right. i think the wilson administration. the other part that we don't see, the influence that she's had on the president, what is known about how she's been able to move him in a direction of causes that matter to her if >> he talks about this, you know, this idea that especially on social issues, she's pretty progressive. their family talked about things before he came out in support of gay marriage. he was for it and there was a family conversation. even in her 2012 stump speech, before the vice president came out for same-sex marriage, before the president came out for same-sex marriage, she was talking about not discriminating against people because of who they love. that line was in her speech. it didn't generate a lot of headlines. but she made clear where she
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stood on that issue. there's this moment where she's with the first lady of mexico. they're in a school, and in the washington, d.c. -- i think they were in the suburbs. there's a young girl who is in the audience. they're just having a conversation probably about something related to healthy eating, and she raises her hands and says, you know, what should i do, my mom doesn't have papers, to the first lady. that was a really gripping moment. so it's hard to imagine that there weren't conversations back at the white house about this encounter and immigration. >> liz is watching us in delaware. hi, liz, you're on the air. >> caller: oh, hi, thank you for the program. i've been enjoying it. i would like to ask your guests how michelle obama interacted or felt about her in-laws? i know family seems to be very
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important to them and i was wondering how much they met with each other and did she have a fond affection for her in-laws? >> did michelle obama ever meet the president's mother, if yes, what was the relationship? >> that's a really good question. i can't answer it at length. they did meet. of course, she would not have met barack obama's father. >> she was at the wedding. >> right, right. i don't know a great deal about their relationship. i don't think that it was close. do you? >> i don't know. you know, the president talked a bit about his mother's passing, he talked about health care. i'm not sure how much time they did have to spend together. >> tomorrow night, there's going to be a state dinner at the white house. you mentioned earlier that -- we asked in each program about the
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job of each first lady as a steward of the white house. how does michelle obama perhaps use it differently than other first ladies? >> we talked about the garden that. has been her signature stamp on the white house. we see her going out for the ceremonial plantings and harvesting and being out there with children. but also using the house, she referred to it as the people's house. this idea that people who never come to the white house should be welcomed in, and what are ways to do that, in the kind of bringing in folks who never have been there before. so you see lots of schoolchildren coming through for workshops when there is a celebrity who is giving a musical performance. there will be a workshop earlier in the day with students from local schools. and so this idea that you can
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kind of use it as a third space or in some ways a community center is, i think, you know, a little fresh and different. >> we must remember for a number of years in the beginning of their administration, it was closed to public doors because of the financial down turns, restrictions were happening at that point. so they had different public interface than previous administrations. we have just 15 minutes left and a lot to cover. you mentioned that after the election, once the election was won, the first lady got together with strategists to talk about issues she would get more involved in. one of those is clearly education. we have a clip from last year where the first lady talks about education and its importance. let's listen. >> for generations, in many parts of this country, it was illegal for black people to get
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an education. slaves caught reading or writing could be beaten to within an inch of their lives. anyone, black or white, who dared to teach them, skoub fico fined or thrown into jail. and yet, just two years after the emancipation proclamation was signed, the school that's founded not just to educate african-americans, but to teach them how to educate others, it was, in many ways, an act of defiance. an eloquent rebuttal that black people couldn't or shouldn't be educated. but today, more than 150 years after the emancipation proclamation, more than 50 years at the end of separate but equal, when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can't be bothered. today, instead of walking miles
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every day to school, they're sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching tv. instead of dreaming of being a teacher, a lawyer, a business leader, they're fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper. >> what can we expect from michelle obama on this issue in the years ahead? >> it's interesting. i was there when she gave the speech, and it was very well received. holding those meetings and thinking about what she would spend her time doing in addition to the healthy eating in the military families the sort of connectivity that you can see that she had with these audiences where she was talking about issues around education, it became clear to her staff. so they planned to develop this issue of education as one that she will be focused most closely on students, working with the department of education to just
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reinforce the high school students, particularly those who are still early in their high school years, that they really need to be preparing themselves for college, going through the very minutia of it. she was at a seminar talking about the importance of filling out your financial aid forms. she's done a video where she shares some of her experience when she first got to princeton and didn't have sheets long enough for her bed. these kinds of things, she knows what it's like not to be prepared for this process, so that you can go through it any way. that you could be successful in really, again, this idea of role modeling these things and saying that there's no magic here. that's her message in this education. >> kelvin in portland, oregon, you're on. >> caller: thank you very much. i want to say to the panel, you all, my family, we're enjoying
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the show. first, former texas governor ann richards and barbara jordan said that women are always dubbed with a double standard that's why you have to know your own purpose. i think michelle obama exemplifies knowing her own purpose. so this is a great show. is there a possible consideration for a hillary clinton and michelle obama ticket in 2016? thank you very much. >> thank you. we've had a number of people on twitter wonder if the first lady has political ambitions. >> people often ask that. they draw the parallel between her and hillary clinton because they're both lawyers, and i always say, i don't think she'll run for political office. i think hillary clinton had a passion from early on. but you may disagree. >> no, it's interesting. she has said emphatically many times that this is not something
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that she's interested in. some politicians say that, and you kind of know in the back of their minds that they're a sneaking suspicion that they'll run. but she talks about feeling like she doesn't have the personality for it, that she would be too impatient for running for office. and you get the sense, especially in the way we're talking about messaging and the way she enjoys connecting with the public, that going through the rigors and dealing with the press is not something that she would enjoy. i think that she'll be making an impact after the white house. >> she'll stay in public life. >> definitely. >> gary wants to snow -- >> i think the way that she has engame e ed -- engaged with popr and entertainment has been ground breaking.
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when i saw her at the oscars, it was like a head turning kind of moment. like what is the first lady doing at the oscars. you know, talking to her -- her staff talked about it. later, she loves the movies, and the idea that she could do it. and maybe some of these folks in hollywood would come and support some of her programs to help kids. so just getting outside of the strictures of politics. i think that's a trail that she's blazed that we may see some other first ladies follow. >> in the time we have left, we looked at her high approval ratings, in the 60s and higher than her husband's for much of the time. but she has had some criticism. we talked about sock, choices of phrases that she used, as a surrogate for her husband. but also there have been things like trips and vacations that
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she's taken, which she's gotten criticized for. what are your comments how she's approached that? >> expensive sneakers worn to a soup kitchen. she has cultivated the public image of being very fashionable. and she's quite interested in her clothes, as well. so i think every now and then there has been a misstep in terms of taking expensive vacations at a time when the country is suffering. >> comments? >> there has been -- she hasn't had to do much to animate folks who don't like her. which looked at the poll numbers earlier at the favorable rate has stayed pretty rate, and so has the unfavorable rate. so there is about -- around a quarter of the american public that does


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