Inspiring Thursday: Michelle Obama

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

Michelle Obama, née Robinson was born and grew up in Chicago’s South Side. She studied sociology and African-American studies at Princeton University and then continued to study at Harvard Law School. After graduation, she came back to Chicago and took a job as a junior associate at Sidley & Austin. While working at the firm, she met Barack Obama who had been hired as a summer associate. As she deepened her relationship with Barack, she decided to leave the firm and focus more on a public-service-oriented career path. Following year, she and Barack got married. Later, Michelle Obama continued her career as the assistant commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and founder of the Chicago branch of Public Allies, a leadership-training program for young adults.

In 1996, Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate and in that same year, Michelle Obama became the associate dean of student services at the University of Chicago. In 2005 she became vice president of community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center. During all that time, Michelle Obama was also the mother and tried to balance her work and personal life in order to be a present parent for their daughters.

In 2008, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Michelle Obama immediately left her position at the University of Chicago to devote more time to campaigning and care for their daughters. She took a very important role during campaigning. She gave several crucial speeches and her openness which humanized her husband became a very effective tool of campaigning. On November 4, 2008, Barack was elected 44th president of the United States and in 2012, he was reelected. Michelle Obama became the First Lady of the United States of America and the first African-American First Lady.

As the First Lady, Michelle Obama was involved in various causes such as women advocacy, advocacy for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. After the end of Obama’s second term, Michelle Obama kept a relatively low profile. In 2018, she released her autobiography Becoming. Moreover, in 2020, she launched and began hosting The Michelle Obama Podcast.

Throughout her career, Michelle Obama became a role model for girls and women all over the World and always stepped up when it was needed. In 2015, she started an initiative Let Girls Learn to help the girls who do not have access to quality education. The initiative also promotes programs that reduce gender-based violence against children and educate young women on their rights. In addition, while in the White House, she hosted a dinner to support mentoring programs for girls and encourage them to be brave. She also spoke during the “Power of an Educated Girl” panel and at the South African Young African Women Leaders Forum where she heartened the women and their fight for injustice and ask them to continue to fight for their rights.  Michelle Obama also addressed the topic of protecting women from sexual harassment, after the accusations made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and others in a position of power.

Michelle Obama took the path in her life that was not always easy, but it was worth it. She paved the way for a lot of women and girls, and without hesitation, she became an example of open heart, ambition, and hard work.

Written by WAVE Intern Mária Trubanová