15 April 2019 - Becoming - Michelle Obama

I finished reading the book, Becoming by Michelle Obama on Friday. I had given myself the challenge to complete it in time for the book tour talk that happened in London last night to an intimate audience of 15,000. 

Back last December I saw that tickets where going up for sale for this book tour so suggested to my fellow Salesforce ladies in our WhatsApp group whether we fancied attending. Some of us had been lucky to see her speak at Dreamforce in 2017. Michelle Obama came over so well, warm and genuine that I was eager to hear her speak again. When the tickets went live we scrambled to make the purchases, managing to buy 10 in all. We were set. 

Let me tell you a bit about the book first, which by the way has already sold over 10m copies. Its produced in 3 sections; Becoming - which talks of Michelle growing up in her Chicago neighbourhood, her family, going to an Ivy League College and first major job as a Lawyer. She meets a hot shot intern who over time becomes her future husband. The next section; Becoming Us - talks more of the romance, wedding and life as the Obamas and how their relationship and family had to cope with Barrack's increasing investment into politics, through to everyone getting involved for the Presidential campaign and subsequent win. The final section; Becoming More - tells of life as the First Family and Michelle's contribution to her country during her tenure. She played a fine balance between giving so much and being a mum to her daughters, trying to provide them as normal as possible surroundings to grow up. 

They are the factual elements of the story but the message behind the book is that Michelle is trying to show every reader that she came from a poor background but in many ways she was also rich. She had respectful and supportive parents who gave everything so that both her and her brother could get an education. Michelle studied hard to achieve her work status as a Lawyer, only to realise that it didn't bring her joy, deciding to change her career angle to support College's in Chicago. A political leaning, with the opportunity to give back to her country was a natural progression. She took opportunities and worked hard. Anyone could also make their dreams happen for themselves too.

Segway to yesterday afternoon and 11 of us gathered in a hotel suite to ready ourselves for Michelle's talk (I brought a helper). I had prepared a feast of afternoon tea, with a sprinkling of Prosecco to help the day along. 

Some Salesforce ladies, a couple of 'civvies' and gents completed our party mix to spend some quality time catchup up, talking about Michelle and generally putting the world to rights. We do see a lot of each other at group nights but often don't have the time to really talk, often one of us is playing host and running around keeping the show rolling. Its nice to have proper time to ourselves, to kick back and have a laugh. As one of the girls said, this image reminds her of a family gathering. It looks like we're hanging out in someone's lounge, sprawling about the sofa's and floor, comfortable together and full of food. All ready for a nap, or maybe a chat with the former First Lady.

We fell out of the Intercontinental Hotel and waddled over to the O2, our evening's location. Once through security we found our seats and waited for Michelle. Finally a film started and it kicked off with the Carpool Karaoke, followed by so many of the initiatives that had been achieved. And then the lady was on the stage, being interviewed by US host, Stephen Colbert (who did a very convincing impression of Trump). Speaking for over 1 hour, Michelle talked about her growing up, meeting Obama and her time in the White House. Complementing the content in her book but also giving extra value by answering questions that had been collected from Twitter. 

The Obamas were the first family to live with mass social media, where every person has the ability to take a photo and make a comment on anything you do. For the Obama's, as the first black Presidential family, they had to be whiter than white (if you pardon the pun). They realised early on that they had to take control of every image, voice and message that was presented in the public domain. They could never afford to put a step out of place. 

For the Obama's they also found that they were there to lead, and their own pain was not the point of the 'mission'. It was not about personal gain, but what they could give back to their country. They also worked hard to make people's lives better but knowing that they may have planted seeds that they will never see the fruits of their labour. 

For Michelle, her achievements during her tenure were to get 45m kids eating healthier breakfasts and lunches, 11m students getting 60 minutes of exercise every day through the Lets Move! Active Schools campaign and helped get 1.5m Veterans and their spouses either trained or hired via 'Joining Forces'. She was a very proactive First Lady, first in her kind and an effort that we are not seeing from the current White House tenants. 

The Obama 'methodology' resonates with much that Salesforce also stands for today. They are about giving equal opportunities to candidates who are willing to learn and work hard. They help people from all backgrounds to achieve their goals. They bring them along and act as a multiplier to support others. They want to improve the lifestyles of everyone as health should be a basic entitlement, along with education. Their legacy is to help the next generation step up. 

For the Salesforce community, we try to do the same. We support, we pay if forward and help others achieve their goals. That's why yesterday was a special day to spend with my Salesforce ladies, at a Salesforce family gathering. Lets do it again soon. Lets invite Michelle too, she seems our kinda gal. 


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