Becoming : Noteworthy Quotes

I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child – What do you wanna be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.

Everyone on earth was carrying an unseen history and that alone deserved some tolerance 

Time, as far as my father was concerned, was a gift you gave to other people 

Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result . It’s vulnerability that breeds with self doubt and then is escalated often deliberately by fear

Your world shifts but you are asked to adjust and overcome to play your music the same as everyone else. This is doable of course, minority and underprivileged kids rise to the challenge all the time , but it takes energy 

He’d (Barak) contended most often with a deep weariness in people, especially black people, a cynicism bread from a thousand small disappointments over time…I had seen it in my own neighborhood, in my own family  a bitterness … a lapse in faith…it lived in both my grandfathers, spawn by every goal they had abandoned and every compromise they’d have to make..

I had never been someone who’d dwell on the more demoralizing parts of being African-American. I’d been raised to think positively. I’d absorb my family’s love and my parents’ commitment to seeing us succeed … my purpose had always been to see past my neighborhood, to look ahead and overcome and I had… but listening to Barak I began to understand that his version of hope reached far beyond mine. It was one thing to get yourself out of a stuck place, I realized. It was another thing entirely, to try and get the place itself unstuck 

It was one thing to get yourself out of a stuck place, I realized. It was another thing entirely, to try and get the place itself unstuck 

The choices he (Barak) sought was this: You give up or you work for change

What’s better for us, do we settle for the world as it is or do we work for the world as it should be

The long held practice was to engage students from a select group of Law schools… Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Northwestern, University of Chicago and the University of Illinois primarily, the places where most of the firm’s lawyers had earned their degrees. It was a circular process. One generation of lawyers hiring new lawyers, whose life experience mirrored their own, leaving little room for diversity of any sort.

If we were serious about bringing in minority Lawyers, I asserted, we’d have to look more holistically at candidates. We’d need to think about how they’d use whatever opportunities life had afforded them, rather then measuring them simply by how far they’d made it in an elitist academic ladder. The point wasn’t to lower firm’s high standards, it was to realize that by sticking to the most rigid and old school way of evaluating a new lawyer’s potential we were overlooking all sorts of people who could contribute to the firm’s success.

Life is short and not to be wasted.

If I died, I didn’t want people remembering me for the stacks of legal briefs I’d written or the corporate trademarks I’d help defend. I felt certain I had something more to offer to the world. 

If you stuck to your principles, things would work out 

Inspiration on its own was shallow, you had to back it up with hard work 

What happens when a solid loving individualist marries an outgoing family woman who does not love solitude one bit? The answer I’m guessing it’s probably the best and more sustaining answer to nearly every question arising inside of marriage no matter who you are or what the issue is… you find ways to do adapt. If you’re in it forever there’s really no choice

We live by the paradigms we know 

Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people… the key was to never let a bully’s insults or aggressions get to you personally. If you did, well then you could really get hurt

The more popular you became, the more haters you acquired…specially in politics 

I was female, black and strong which to certain people maintaining a certain mindset translated only to angry 

The easiest way to disregard a woman’s voice is to package her as a scold 

There is no handbook for incoming First Ladies of the United States . It’s not technically a job nor is it an official government title. It comes with no salary and no spelled out set of obligations…. If there was a presumed grace for my white predecessors I knew it wasn’t likely to be the same for me. I learned through the campaign stumbles that I had to be better faster smarter and stronger than ever

I was humbled and excited to be first lady but not for one second did I think I’d be sliding into some glamorous role; nobody who has the words first and black attached to them ever would.

Confidence…. sometimes needs to be called from within 

Am I good enough? Yes I am

If you don’t go out there and define yourself , you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others 

As long as I’ve known him (Barack Obama), he’s been this way, extra vigilant when it comes to matters of money and ethics, holding himself to a higher standard than even what’s dictated by law. 

There is an age old maxim in the black community “you’ve gotta be twice as good to get half as far”

In general, I was less interested in the redecorating and inauguration planning than I was in figuring out what I could do with my new role.

To bend the bar of tradition ever so slightly.. in general I was thinking that life in the White House could be forward leaning without losing any of its established history and tradition 

… until recently most of what we knew about food had come through food Industry advertising of everything boxed frozen or otherwise processed for convenience…. Nobody really was out there advertising the fresh healthy stuff, gratifying crunch of a fresh carrot or the unparalleled sweetness of a tomato plucked right off the wine. Planting a garden at the White House was my response to this problem and I hoped it would signal the start of something bigger.

When Barack addressed a joint session of Congress … from where I say I could see most of the chamber below. It was an unusual bird’s eye view of our country’s leaders. An ocean of whiteness and maleness dressed in white suits. The absence of diversity was glaring. Honestly it was embarrassing for a modern multicultural country.

Life was better always when we could measure the warmth 

When it came to dealing with the CEOs of soft drink companies and school lunch suppliers I thought it was worth making a human appeal as opposed to a regulatory one – to collaborate rather than pick a fight 

As First Lady I was mindful too of a larger obligation. I felt that I owed more to children in general and in particular to girls

The surprise that an urban black girl bolted through Ivy League schools and executive jobs and landed in the White House; I understood that my trajectory was unusual but there was no good reason why it had to be.

There had been so many times in my life when I found myself to be only women of color or even the only woman period, sitting at a conference table or attending a board meeting or mingling at one VIP gathering or another. If I was the first at any of these things then I wanted to make sure that in the end I wasn’t in the only and that others were coming up behind me

Friendships between women as any women would tell you are built off a thousand small kindnesses…swapped back and forth and over again 

Life was teaching me that progress and change happened slowly, not in two years, four years, or even a lifetime. We were planting seeds of change the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.

Kids will invest more when they feel they are being invested in

It was possible I knew to live on two planes at once, to have one step planted in reality but pointed in the direction of progress… you got somewhere by building that better reality if at first only in your mind

You may live in the world as it is but you can still work to create a world as it should be

When they go low, we go high

Kids wake up each day believing in the goodness of things, in the magic of what might be, they’re uncynical believers at their core. We owe it to them to stay strong and to keep working to create a more fair and humane world, for them we need to remain both tough and hopeful, to acknowledge there is more growing to be done

Our faces dismantle the perception that in order to be enshrined in history you have to look a certain way; if we belong then so too can many others

Let’s invite one another in, maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. 

It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about where you get yourself in the end; there is power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there is grace in willing to know and hear others. This for me is how we become.

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