Becoming Us, Chapters 16–18

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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1174

Chapter 16

Michelle remembers the constant movement of the campaign, describing Barack as “a kind of human blur.” On February 10, 2007, Barack stood before a podium in the freezing weather to announce his candidacy. Michelle was apprehensive as she led Malia and Sasha onto the stage, but she lost her fear as soon as she stepped out and suddenly viewed the crowd. Fifteen thousand people had come out to cheer on Barack, and Michelle now saw each of those people as the Obamas’ responsibility. They came out for the Obamas, and the Obamas would not fail them. Michelle was in complete support of Barack.

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Life changed quickly. Barack was in competition with the popular Hillary Clinton. He and Michelle both needed to campaign, although they rarely did so together. Michelle was allotted money to hire staff, and she hired Melissa Winter, who later became her Chief of Staff, and Katie McCormick Lelyveld as her Communications Director. Michelle knew she played a significant role in the campaign, and her only stipulation was that she would be home at night for the children.

She traveled quite frequently to Iowa, a priority state for candidates, where she felt quite comfortable with people. With no script or understanding of exactly what she was supposed to do, Michelle decided to simply speak from her heart. She told people about her early life, how she met Barack, and what kind of person he was. When people hugged her, she was comfortable hugging them back.

It was Malia who brought about Michelle’s interest in health and nutrition. A doctor warned Michelle that Malia’s body mass index was high, which might put her in danger of obesity, high blood pressure, or other serious health issues later on in her life. Michelle was shocked: she’d thought she was doing everything right to care for her daughters, but she hadn’t realized that they’d fallen into some bad habits, such as eating out frequently and picking up fast food takeout. The ever-busy family needed to fit in time to prepare healthy meals; the only way to do that was to hire a cook. She hired Sam Kass, who not only cooked for the family, but also taught them about healthy food options.

Her constant campaigning caused Michelle to become a known personality, which also opened the door to criticism. She faced journalists who called her a “princess” or suggested that her promotions were a result of Barack’s influence. Hateful rumors about Barack also circulated; despite being unfounded, these rumors hurt the entire family. Michelle took comfort in the facts that Secret Service agents shadowed Barack and an agent had been assigned to the Obama home.

Michelle and Barack concentrated their campaigning efforts on Iowa, a state they knew was important to any election. The Obamas and many of their friends and family supported Barack at the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines, several weeks ahead of the Iowa caucus. It was typically an important dinner that gave the Democratic candidates a chance to speak from the heart, without notes. The candidates used their speech time to criticize their opponents. Barack, who spoke last, merely said that he did not want people to take sides and fight the same fights of the past. He wanted change, and he declared, “America, our moment is now.”

It was that speech that propelled Barack to win the Iowa caucus, a feat that most had thought was impossible. Michelle finally began to see his vision—change was possible. 

Chapter 17

Campaigning now was “like having your soul X-rayed every day,” according to Michelle. The press followed Barack’s every move, scrutinizing every word, every action, every gesture. Michelle took a leave of absence from her job, recognizing that her every moment would now be consumed.

On the Fourth of July, the family and their...

(The entire section contains 1174 words.)

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