Michelle Obama – “Own Your Story and Be Ok with It”

I had the pleasure of dinner at the Edinburgh Conference Centre last night courtesy of Anderson Anderson Brown: Michelle Obama, interviewed by the rower Dame Katherine Grainger DBE. Two amazing women! Listening to Michelle Obama I made several mental notes of some of her views on life, education and maturity. Fascinating view on women, youth and the US Presidency, and I totally agree with her so wanted to let some of you hear a little on what she had to say.

Michelle says that as a mother of two girls and ex First Lady to the US she has noticed that women hide their voices. Men grow up assuming they know everything and women grow up and then realise that THEY really DO know everything, but were just afraid to voice their views. This comes later with maturity.  Michelle Obama says her message to youth today would be that it’s ok to “own your story” as everyone’s story is different, everyone comes from a different financial, racial and international background and had different parents and life experiences but that’s ok, whether they be good, bad or mixed. It’s ok to be just who you are and your journey defines YOU as a person. It’s ok to be accepting and happy with that as that forms your life story so be proud of it. A great message to today’s young I think!

She said over the years she’s sat in meetings as a Harvard and Princeton graduate and subsequent attorney, turned First Lady of the US, and thought …”OK so these men have more degrees than me and they are talking, talking, talking and I still don’t get it. Then you realise as you get older, OK they’re still talking and now I KNOW that they really DON’T know and they are just talking”. A few men disagreeing with that one in the audience I think but generally she has a point that women need to be more confident that they too can contribute to the conversation and have valid, educated views to voice if they have the confidence to do it. Looking back on my own life I know she is right. I was very quiet in my teens and in my twenties also. It was after children and some time in the workforce that I came to the same realisation, as Michelle says, “it’s OK to be wrong and it’s OK to voice your views”.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is releasing a book on her life story this November. Should be a fascinating read. She says that she feels strongly on gender balance as the mum of two girls and that she has seen that “the world we have created for women isn’t safe. There is mental, emotional and sexual abuse and millions are still not educated. Leaders have to lead the way or they are complicit in accepting this.” It’s all about leadership acknowledging and being vocal in their businesses and groups about what is right and what is not and standing up for the right thing, equality. Having been actively involved in gender conversations just the last couple of years myself I totally get this. Men should not be threatened about equality. It’s not about women taking over the world. It’s just about men and women both having a say and both having equal pay and equal rights.  We are all entitled to equal opportunities and the young these days are starting to accept this much more than when many of use who now have teenagers were at school. Michelle Obama is going to continue her work on diversity, which she started in the 1980’s, in a new role outside of the Whitehouse as the role is, in a way, much easier to do outside of politics. She recalls as “mum in chief” for the first time the feminists totally disagreed with her mentioning she was playing the main role as a mum in order to be sure that her girls would be OK growing up in the Whitehouse and not be affected, and giving up her role as an attorney. She says in politics you just cannot win as you are never going to convince everyone that your views are correct. Again, that’s OK and you have to accept that.

Young people need to be taught that failure and resilience are important to learn. That’s what you do learn fast in the Whitehouse. Brains, temperament, decency – these are all things that are important to do a good job in as President of a country. She believes that Barrack Obama got a lot of good things done. When asked if she would run for President her view was adamant. Definitely NOT! Michelle says her kids would stop her running for President. The reason is that the job is hard going for the family and she is not interested in doing that. People are cynical and when you enter the job of running the Country then you automatically alienate half the population.  Also she believes that “leaders need to learn when to get out of the way for the next generation”. There is no point the same people coming in and out of power. The world needs new blood, new bright ideas, new technological and empathetic minds. She says “to be a great leader you need to have knowledge, intelligence, history, perspective on what went wrong and you need experiences in the world to know how people FEEL rather than just what they know so that you can engage”. You also need to be a hard worker and give 120% all the time and so you need to be in shape for the climb. Like climbing Everest, she says, you don’t want to dip out at base camp!

Michelle believes that it’s wrong asking kids these days “What do you want to be when you grow up”. Instead we should be asking “What do you really care about”. You need to understand yourself to really know what you want to do in life every day of the week, to be able to wake up happy. This takes time and maturity. Michelle Obama says “What do we teach our children if we don’t give them hope. That’s what inspires me. We may not see the seeds we plant in this generation as it takes a generation to see real change”.

What an amazing woman! So pleased to have heard her talk about her life,  her kids and her vision. Who knows, maybe one of her kids will be in the Whitehouse one day, even if it’s not Michelle?

Ann-Maree of Labels4Kids with Beverley Knight MBE

And finally, speaking about careers and being able to be whatever you want to be. How about Beverley Knight MBE shown here with me (left). Amazing singer. We were also entertained by Deacon Blue, another icon.

A great charity fundraiser night where The Hunter Foundation was using the funds to give 40% extra to every charity fundraising done by those walking in “The Kilt Walk” in Scotland this year. A very worth cause that Labels4Kids is happy to support.


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