Becoming More, Chapters 19–21
The next weeks went by quickly as the family prepared to change their lives. Laura and George Bush welcomed Michelle and Barack to the White House, giving them a tour and comforting words of understanding at the great task and changes they were about to undertake. Malia and Sasha started at their new schools, always accompanied by Secret Service agents, which was quite an adjustment. Thankfully, they seemed happy and comfortable settling into a routine.
Michelle had insisted that her mother accompany them to Washington, and Marion had complied for the children. However, she refused to remain in the spotlight, preferring her independence. She declined Secret Service agents, did her own laundry, and left the grounds whenever she wanted to. If someone recognized her and asked if she was Michelle Obama’s mother, she’d merely say, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”
The Bidens and Obamas became fast friends. Although Barack and Joe had been political rivals for the Presidency, they fell into an easy friendship afterwards as President and Vice President. Michelle connected with Jill Biden immediately.
The inauguration ceremony was another event that Michelle remembers occurring in slow motion. She recalls lifting Lincoln’s Bible and Barack placing his hand on it, vowing to protect the United States Constitution. He told the crowd, “we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”
The night was a flurry of preparations, and various balls were held in honor of the new President of the United States. Barack and Michelle stayed at each ball a short time, and each one had the same format: Barack was introduced as “Hail to the Chief” played, he spoke briefly, and then he and the new First Lady danced to “At Last.” Through it all, Michelle was comforted by the fact that they were still the same couple they always were, the “yin and yang duo” of twenty years of marriage. The last party was a private affair for friends and family, but Michelle was too exhausted to enjoy it. Barack assured her that she didn’t have to attend, and she promptly went to bed.
Barack wasted no time getting to work. During his first month as President, for instance, he signed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to protect workers from age, gender, and race discrimination. Despite his busy schedule, he dined with the family—a feat he hadn’t always managed to accomplish for years.
Michelle began working early on, too. She learned to coordinate with staff in planning events, such as the Governor’s Ball and the Easter Egg Roll. She began a garden right away to raise awareness for nutrition.
It was very important to Michelle that she be viewed by other parents as Malia and Sasha’s mom, not as the First Lady. Although her staff was responsible for daily activities or arranging playdates, Michelle made it a priority to also invite her daughters’ new friends’ parents for lunch or community events. There were uncomfortable moments, such as when Secret Service agents did security sweeps before the girls attended a party or when parents were required to give their Social Security numbers in order to bring children to the White House for a playdate. The children, however, did not care—they just wanted to play.
Barack and Michelle intended to make the White House open and comfortable for everyone. For instance, they added more tickets to the Easter Egg Roll for military families and children at city schools. The staff was always welcoming and respectful to the Obama family, and Michelle tried to make sure that no one felt invisible. The family enjoyed interacting with the various staff members: Barack would watch basketball and talk sports with the butlers, Malia and Sasha would make smoothies in the kitchen, and everyone was pleasant and joked with each other.
If the White House was intimidating, Buckingham Palace was much more so when Michelle and Barack first visited Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip for the G20...
(The entire section is 1,222 words.)