Becoming Us, Chapters 12–15

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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1321

Chapter 12

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Returning from their honeymoon, Michelle and Barack were happy that Bill Clinton had won the election for President. Barack had helped to register 110,000 new voters, demonstrating to politicians that African American voters mattered. Barack was hopeful for the Black community.

Unfortunately, Barack had been so busy advocating for the public that he’d failed to meet his book deadline; the publisher cancelled the contract, and Barack now owed the $40,000 advance. Barack’s agent was confident that another publisher would buy it, so Barack proposed writing the book in complete isolation, although this would take him away from his new bride. His mother rented him a cabin in Bali, and he returned home in five weeks with a finished manuscript.

The newlyweds settled comfortably into married life. They purchased a condo, and Michelle changed jobs again to work for a nonprofit.

Chapter 13

As Executive Director of Public Allies, Michelle trained and placed talented young people in paid apprenticeships in community organizations. She appreciated that Public Allies sought opportunities for people whose leadership abilities might have gone overlooked.

Meanwhile, Barack was teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, working at the law firm, and running community workshops. His book, Dreams from My Father, was published in 1995. His wife began to understand that he carried every problem on his own shoulders, which is why he always needed a quiet place to concentrate, to read and write, and to be alone with his thoughts.

Barack was inspired to run for office by state senator Alice Palmer; he ran for and was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996. Unfortunately, his mother died of ovarian cancer before he was elected, which devastated him.

He engaged enthusiastically in his job, even introducing seventeen new bills in one week. However, politics always involved a fight, especially from the Republican majority, which voted down the bills. Nevertheless, Barack remained optimistic.

Moving again to another job, this time as an associate dean at the University of Chicago, Michelle connected the community with the university and students with the city. With a more reasonable paycheck and better hours, she could focus on her personal life.

Barack and Michelle wanted to have a baby, but they were having a difficult time conceiving. After miscarrying, they sought the help of a fertility doctor, and they eventually welcomed their first daughter, Malia Ann, to their family.

Chapter 14

Now that they were parents, Michelle and Barack’s every attention was focused on the baby. Barack was reelected to the state senate and was busier than ever.

Barack, Michelle, and Malia spent Christmas in Hawaii, but when Barack was called back for a special vote on an important crime bill, they were unable to return, because Malia was sick. Faced with a choice, he made a father’s decision to stay with his family and miss the vote.

The bill did not pass, and Barack absorbed much criticism. Michelle was concerned that this one event might destroy the good he had accomplished, as sometimes happens in politics. Barack remained steadfast, but he lost the Democratic primary.

Michelle and Barack’s second child, Natasha (Sasha) Marian, was born in June 2001. Soon after, a former mentor invited Michelle to apply for the position of Executive Director for Community Affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Here was an opportunity for a full-time position in which she could make a difference while making enough money to take care of her family.

Years of Barack being at work all week and returning home late on Thursday nights took a toll on Michelle. In addition, she was bothered by Barack’s lack of punctuality: he would always become caught up in a project and lose track of time. She felt resentful and frustrated, and she worried that their marriage might fall apart, as she had seen others’ do. Counseling helped the couple to sort out their feelings. Michelle learned to embrace, rather than resent, Barack’s hectic schedule, and she found that exercising helped her. Valuing his family greatly, Barack worked on being on time. 

George W. Bush was president at this time, and the United States had undergone the horrific tragedies of September 11, 2001. The War in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden were on everyone’s minds. In his quest to make a difference, Barack considered running for a US Senate seat. 

Chapter 15

At age forty, Michelle had settled into a routine. She was proud of herself for balancing a rewarding job and a happy personal life, but she sometimes was incredulous that things were working. She was careful not to allow work to overtake her personal life. Barack’s career was the unpredictable one, so she needed to maintain stability at home for their children.

Barack was restless, believing he had a lot to offer Washington. They visited Valerie Jarrett, Michelle’s former boss at City Hall, for advice. Michelle secretly hoped that Valerie would discourage Barack from a campaign for the Senate. Instead, Barack gave a convincing argument and asked Valerie to be his finance chair. Michelle knew he was prepared for the challenge and agreed that he should run for office, but with their family in mind, she made him promise that if he lost, he would leave politics. 

On invitation by John Kerry, Barack delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Michelle accompanied him to Boston, where he talked about his family, his faith in education, the unity of the country, and hope for the future. A proud Michelle was awed by the audience’s applause: she writes, “The energy was electric, the sound absolutely deafening.”

The aftermath was overwhelming. Barack’s cell phone never stopped ringing. Journalists called him “the first black president” and were interested in his views. People asked for his autograph. Dreams from My Father was reprinted and made the New York Times bestseller list. Oprah Winfrey interviewed them. Through it all, the couple maintained levity with a running joke: “Must’ve been a good speech.” Joking about it helped them to deal with the sudden exposure. In November, Barack won the election by seventy percent of the vote, the largest landslide in that year’s Senate races.

One day, a senator’s wife invited Michelle to join a private group of Washington wives, but she declined, explaining that the family would not be moving to Washington. The woman gently told her that families had been destroyed in the past because family members stayed behind when someone moved to Washington. Michelle insisted that they wanted to keep the children in their current school and that she was not going to quit her job.

Then came Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane hit in August 2005, leaving devastation and hopelessness in its wake. Barack joined the Clinton and Bush families in New Orleans, trying to give whatever assistance and comfort they could.

The question of whether Barack would run for President hovered in the air. Having recently been promoted to a vice president position, Michelle was happy with her job and with her life. She worried about how politics would change their lives. They’d already been through five campaigns, and she felt that each one had “put a little dent in [her] soul and also in [their] marriage.” She worried what would happen to the family. They would all need to participate in a campaign, and she really didn’t want that.

Craig reminded his sister that if Barack had any possibility to win, he needed to try. When considering how she and Barack had always tried to help others, Michelle knew that he had to run. She truly believed Barack had the intelligence, the stamina, the discipline, and the compassion to be a great president. She could not put herself, or even their family, ahead of millions of people. Although she supported him, she secretly worried that “as a black man in America,” he wouldn’t win.

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Becoming Us, Chapters 9–11

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Becoming Us, Chapters 16–18