In Conversation With Michelle Obama

Inspirational Words on the Importance of Diversity, Changing the World, and Having It All
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In Conversation With Michelle Obama

On Tuesday, a few of our Brookies had the great privilege of attending ‘In Conversation with Michelle Obama’ presented by Elevate Tech Fest. Since we devoured her incredible best-selling memoir, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak in person.

We took in every word of her conversation with Claudette McGowan, the award-winning Chief Information Officer at BMO, who spent her career advocating for inclusivity and innovation. Their discussion was heart-centered, funny, authentic, inspirational, and both relatable and awe-inspiring.

Here are a few pieces of wisdom from Obama that we gleaned from their unforgettable conversation. 

Words Of Wisdom From Michelle Obama On:

  • Reflecting and Knowing Who You Are

    When I was First Lady, I wasn’t taking time to reflect; I was pushing through a to-do list. Make sure you take time in your life to reflect. What do you value, what is important to you, what do you care about, what brings you joy,  what are you good at?

    Think about your own stories–really think about them.

    Think about the stories that stick in your head from your childhood and your life. All the pieces of your story help you understand you.

  • Having It All And Purpose

    People think they can have it all–but no one can have it all. We all have our seasons. We all have our chapters. What chapter are you in? There is no timetable for your success, so take your time. It will happen. It will unfold. Pause, and find your purpose.

  • Focus And Technology

    Turn it off!! Turn off your device–regularly. Go out into the world and give and get energy. Before devices, we would campaign and be out in the world with thousands of people and we connected with them; hugs, greetings, eye contact.As each year passed, more and more people would miss the moment because they had their phones out. We would be standing in front of them and they wouldn’t know it, they were buried in their devices. Be in the moment. Put down your device. How much of life are we missing because our heads are down?

  • Human Connection & Kindness

    Energy comes from people coming together in a place all at once and feeling the power of connection. What happens if we lose that? Creators: Think about the power of what you can do. How do we promote humanness?

  • Diversity And Inclusion

    You can’t make decisions based in fear. You have to come to the table and be completely yourself. People who bring diversity to the table often don’t understand the value of their diversity, they don’t bring their full selves to the table. Be fully, completely yourself and don’t alter your stories. Bring the experiences, full-blown, to the table. Don’t be another one of them.

    Own who you are!

    Speak up and use your seat. Too many of us are quiet because we are being careful; we want to protect that seat at that table. Be at the table making change, but don’t be happy being the only one. We need more women, more minorities, and more working-class people at all the tables. Bring them to the table.

  • Battling Invisibility And Coming To The Table

    There are many tables you will sit at that will still make you feel that invisibility. Not everyone has the power to change their circumstances. Come [to the table] and blow it out! Show up and be better, stronger, and more productive.Be a strong team member, be the person who gets the job done, be invaluable.

    Push and prod, but know when to do it. Earn your right to have a voice. Do the job you were hired to do and do it well. Bring your A-game!

  • Change Makers And Making Change

    To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Change making requires patience–don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. We are often a small part of the bigger story. Change is about planting a seed, making a mark, and then passing it on so someone else can continue the journey.

  • Technology and Kids

    [Technology and kids] is good and it’s bad. Everything is at their fingertips, but on the flip side, we don’t know what the impact of this is yet. Parents across the world are trying to figure out how to manage this. Kids are at risk more than ever before. [Technology] is constant. It’s small. It can be used under the covers. You can turn it off and pretend you weren’t using it. I still ask, ‘What is going on in that phone?!’ to my daughters.

  • Advice for Entrepreneurs And Listening To Others

    Being smart is not enough. If you don’t live in the world, you are not experiencing it. You have to live in the world in which you are making the solutions. Ask yourself, “When do you touch other people?” Do you know the world you’re trying to help? Are you listening?

    Every time I started a new initiative, I listened for over a year.

    Who are the leaders? What holes can I uniquely fill? What are people worried about? I spend a lot of time listening. Get to know people. Get out there and live life. Do real things. Keep your life filled with new complexities. Fuel it with real-life experiences.

  • Her Initiatives And Legacy

    I wanted to make sure I wasn’t a slogan First Lady. Strategy was key. We planted a garden and supported physical activity in children to help fight obesity because gardens and children are not threatening in a partisan environment. Being strategic is crucial.

  • Social Media And What We Share

    The beauty of social media is that it forces public figures to think about how to reach people in a responsible way. You can start a movement, get information, inspire. You can reach people with important messages. On the flip side, you can misinform and spread hate. But you can do good things with it. I focus on the issues I care about. I share that on social media.

  • Wellness And Wellbeing

    The truth is that women’s wellness is something we need to tackle. We put ourselves third or fourth on the priority list because women are givers. We need to invest in ourselves. Friendships give emotional and spiritual grounding.

    Being in our bodies is essential; waking up every day and feeling the power of moving in our skin.

    How do we know when we are sick? People say, “I don’t sleep well. I’m tired. My appetite is off.” When do we hear the signals? I want to have more of those conversations. What are the barriers to entry to our health? What do we have to do to make sure that the industry gives us what we need to be healthy? I want to explore that, planting the seeds in us as women. What are you doing today for your own health? We have book clubs, and we need health clubs!

  • Choosing The High Road & Tone

    It’s not easy, y’all! It’s that thing called empathy that keeps you high, being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I could take it personally–the racial slurs, the threats, the challenges–I could say, “Wow, I’m mad.” But I was taught to ask, “Where does that come from?” People’s anger comes from somewhere.

    “When they go low, we go high.” – Michelle Obama

    As others rise, you might feel threatened. You don’t fix it if you don’t understand it. It isn’t about me–I lived a good life, I stayed out of trouble. There are millions of people waking up every day doing the right thing, just looking for the credit. When I go high, I’m setting the tone. If I can see you, you can see me. We are trying to emulate what we hope others will do for us. Going high is more for you than it is for the ones going low.

(This article is not a word-for-word transcription of ‘In Conversation with Michelle Obama’ but does capture the overall message and spirit of the discussion as best recorded by our team.)

Feeling inspired? So are we! Hearing from the former First Lady made us want to read her memoir Becoming all over again. If you haven’t cracked it open yet, you’re missing out! Pick up a copy from our Brookstore today.


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