Becoming More, Chapters 22–24 and Epilogue

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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1316

Chapter 22

Control was a concern for Michelle, who was plagued by nightmares about her family’s safety. They’d had to relinquish control of every aspect of their lives. She recognized that Barack would be blamed for many things beyond his control. No one could control the man who shot a...

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Chapter 22

Control was a concern for Michelle, who was plagued by nightmares about her family’s safety. They’d had to relinquish control of every aspect of their lives. She recognized that Barack would be blamed for many things beyond his control. No one could control the man who shot a semiautomatic weapon at the White House, nor could they control the rumors that Donald Trump, who was considering a presidential run in 2012, perpetuated about Barack.

Michelle visited victims of tragedies, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, frequently accompanied by either Jill Biden or Barack. She was especially moved when visiting military hospitals. Conversations with injured soldiers and their families revealed a resilient pride that Michelle greatly admired.

The nightly routine after dinner was to read the briefs that staff had compiled for the President and the First Lady. Barack also read ten letters from constituents each night. He felt responsible to live up to the oath he had taken as President, and he lost sleep to absorb all the information he needed.

Michelle kept busy, starting mentoring programs for high school girls or holding youth workshops to introduce the arts, but she also made a point to spend time with friends.

One evening, she returned home to find the White House buzzing with activity. Barack was about to speak to the nation about the end of the search for Osama bin Laden. Michelle knew that Barack’s search for bin Laden had been risky, but he had taken this risk to protect the people. 

Chapter 23

Malia and Sasha accompanied Michelle to South Africa, where they were honored when Nelson Mandela invited them to his home; Michelle humbly reflected on Mandela’s profound impact on South Africa and the world by going to jail rather than turning his back on his morals. He had not seen his children and some of his grandchildren grow up, but he was not resentful. He believed he had done what was necessary for the country.

At the end of 2011, Barack was pressured to create more jobs by Republicans who had voted down previous bills. Most frustrating to Michelle was Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s comment that the Republican Party’s most important task was to make sure Barack was “a one-term president.” Nevertheless, Barack remained focused on work, and Michelle campaigned for reelection.

On election night, Michelle was incredibly nervous. She suffered in silence, however, not turning on the news and wanting results to be delivered by someone close to her. Finally, Barack brought news of victory as she was getting ready for the afterparty. Relieved, Michelle was optimistic about the good they could accomplish over the next four years.

She could not have known of the tragedies that would unfold in the next weeks. Children lost their lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. There were no words that could mitigate what had happened, but Barack addressed the nation, attempting to offer some comfort. Not long after, Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed after having been mistaken as a gang member. Michelle was deeply moved by the tragedy and attended the funeral in support of Hadiya’s parents.

Michelle now embarked on a violence prevention campaign. She remained realistic, however, understanding that this was a daunting issue that could not be solved simply or perfectly, but she had to try to make even a tiny difference in people’s lives.

Chapter 24

Michelle reflects on Sasha and Malia growing up under the shadow of being different. No other teenagers were followed by a security team, had visitors pass through checkpoints to enter the house, or had their every move could be broadcast to the world. The girls knew that their father’s position placed a great deal of pressure and responsibility on them. They handled it well while still being typical teenagers, even though strangers took their pictures and asked to take selfies with them. It was important to Michelle and Barack that their children’s privacy be protected as much as possible, so they limited the number of photos that were published of the girls.

Malia and Sasha were becoming independent young women. As Michelle toured colleges with Malia, she felt lonely and sad that their oldest was preparing to leave home.

Michelle evaluated the administration as they prepared to leave the White House. She saw fewer wounded soldiers during her visits. The Centers for Disease Control reported better statistics on childhood obesity. There had been five years of job growth. Twenty million more people now had health insurance. They had assisted more than 1.5 million military families to find jobs. However, there was still much to accomplish. Congress had turned down gun control bills. ISIS was growing.

In the Obamas’ last year at the White House, Malia graduated and traveled to Europe. Michelle was proud of her family for all they had been through and all that they had become. She felt sympathy for Barack, who she imagined had missed out on certain aspects of parenting because of his role in politics. Now, she wondered if he felt hurt: he would finally have more time, but his daughters were now independent.

As the race for the Presidency neared its end, a tape of Donald Trump’s vulgar language went public. In response, Michelle denounced his hateful words in one of her speeches.

The Obamas joined the Clintons at a final rally just before election night. As they sat waiting for election results to come in, Barack seemed a bit worried. He noted that some strange results had returned, and more unexpected results came throughout the night. Michelle could not stand the pressure, so she went to bed rather than face the rest of election night.

Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump was elected president because he won the Electoral College votes. Barack, trying to calm people’s nerves, asked the members of the nation to respect each other.

As Michelle looked out over the garden she had successfully begun, grateful to the many staff members who were like family to her, she felt privileged to have served the country that she loved. She wanted its story to be told—a story of diversity and resilience despite the conflicts that plagued it. As Barack’s presidency came to its end, Michelle saw in the United States

a sense of progress, the comfort of compassion, the joy of watching the unsung and invisible find some light. A glimmer of the world as it should be.

Epilogue

Leaving the White House was emotional for everyone. The staff presented the family with two flags: one from Barack’s first day and one from his last day as President of the United States.

It was difficult for Michelle to suppress her emotions as she watched the inauguration ceremony. Remembering the importance of optics in politics, Michelle looked around at the sea of White male faces in the incoming administration. Gone was the diversity that the Obamas had brought with them. Conscious effort is required to promote diversity and to progress as a society, and Michelle was not confident that the new administration would contribute that effort. This realization stopped her from smiling.

Michelle has begun a new chapter of life, and though she lived in the White House and her portrait is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery, she is “still in progress”—still “becoming.” Michelle admits that watching the news angers her as she watches the current administration dehumanize people and spread fear. However, she refuses to give in to cynicism, instead maintaining hope in the future of democracy.

Michelle urges her readers to remember that “becoming” requires patience, hard work, and belief in the future. People should remain open to each other, not be fearful, relinquish stereotypes and divisiveness, and use their “authentic voice.” This, in the end, is the key to “becoming.”

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Becoming More, Chapters 19–21