I met with First Lady Michelle Obama this week, at a small roundtable with six other reporters. We gathered in the White House's Old Family Dining Room--a golden-hued space decorated with oil paintings of former First Ladies, where she and the President have hosted small dinners including last spring's Passover Seder. In the wide-ranging conversation, Mrs. Obama was warm and relaxed as we rapidly fired questions about her first year in the White House. You can read my article about it on Essence.com, but here are a few extra highlights.
On Staying Grounded:
"I found over the course of the campaign that I can continue to gain great joy in this work if I am fully me in it, because it's really hard to be somebody else all the time. ... So on a day-to-day basis, we're still just us. I ask people who have seen us over the years, friends, I check in. It's like, 'Do you still recognize me? When we sit down, do I still feel like Michelle, or are you trippin'?' That check-in is still very important to me.
The other thing that keeps you grounded are kids because when you sit around the dinner table, and Barack starts talking about anything, essentially they're just waiting for him to shut up until they can start talking about what they think is important. Which usually has nothing to do with the 'bigness.' Our conversations are still about friends and school and the general observations about life that kids who are 11 and eight have."
On Attacks On President Obama:
"Folks are out of work, and when people are out of work, and they don't know how they can secure that American Dream, it makes people frustrated and angry and impatient. I think that the President understands that and doesn't sort of take this stuff personally. The goal is to fix it.
So you can't be consumed by the vitriol; it's part of the process of change. You can't become cynical by it. You can't let it eat you up, because your job is to lead beyond that. He has also said it wasn't going to happen overnight. I mean, his themes throughout the campaign--we hold on to the hope piece, but we forget about all the other stuff he said after that. That it's going to be hard, and it doesn't happen overnight, and it's going to take time. ... I think when you're in the midst of hope, it's easy to forget the other qualifying pieces to what hope and change is about. It's struggle, and it's never easy, and we're feeling that right now."
On Whether the President Has Changed Over the Past Year:
"Barack is a steady force of a person, and he is the same man that I've known. I mean, he is incredibly even-keeled, has the same sense of humor. He is working non-stop. He hasn't worked harder over the last three years of his life. ... And there's a physical fatigue that comes with that. But on a personal level, he is still very solid and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of him."