“I want everybody in this auditorium to think to themselves, ‘I can change a life. The question just becomes: whose life are you going to pick?” – Michelle Obama
When we were given the opportunity to meet Michelle Obama, I was in awe. At first, the news didn`t sync in my brain. Knowing that I’m meeting the former first lady of the United States of America was a total numb shock. I felt excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited because meeting one of the people that inspired me to step out of my comfort zone isn’t something that happens on a daily basis. This opportunity was golden because she is the reason why I want to pursue a higher education. I felt nervous because I wanted to be presentable enough as select students chosen to represent Louis Riel School Division. I felt the pressure of being professional enough for such an occasion and ensuring that I enjoy this amazing opportunity.
Michelle Obama’s words impacted my life positively in a way that I would cherish now and in my future. She is a woman full of wisdom with a moving speaking style. One of the topics she stressed was the importance of our education. She stated, “Education is opportunity, opportunity is power.” When I heard that, it just hit me that she was willing to give students the chance to learn from her and meet her in person. I was impressed by how much of her heart she shared with the audience and with us in the V.I.P. room. She didn’t seems like a political person, especially when she talked about opening the White House to children and her interest in helping those who are in need. She is such an inspiration because no matter how much she achieved through Barack Obama’s presidency, she continued to stay humble. Through her talk, she showed us what a down-to-earth person is like, and how much she was willing to share with us about her life. It wasn’t all easy. She shared the hardships she’d been through before receiving the blessings she enjoys today. I learned how important it is to share our experiences with others and to have a willingness to serve others.
In all honesty, no matter how nerve-racking it was meeting her, all of my fear went away the moment she individually gave each of us a genuine hug. It wasn’t just the hug of a political celebrity, not a hug of a stranger, but a genuine hug of a mother or a thoughtful friend. She looked us n the eyes and told us to keep moving forward. She also reminded us to achieve our goals and never be afraid to make mistakes because that’s how we mature. She assured us that the reason why were in this V.I.P. room was to learn and inspire others. She stressed not to be afraid to strive for our future and to seek the purpose that allows our passion to flow.
I am genuinely grateful to be given this experience. Thanks to The Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Adriano Magnifico for giving me this once in a lifetime blessing that I will carry with me as I aspire others to achieve the purpose that they also believe in. Her words – “Own your story and share it with pride” – will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The last weekend before going to meet Michelle Obama I had bought and returned three different outfits. I was far from needing professional wear, I dress for formal occasions at least three times a week. But suddenly I said what many people say when preparing for a special occasion: “I have nothing to wear.” I had already talked to all my aunts about the opportunity and I can say with confidence that they were just as excited as I was. They helped me prepare short yet smart things to say if I was given the opportunity to talk to her and we practised my hugs and handshakes. I got four texts Tuesday morning wishing me luck. In short, I come from a family filled with strong women who idolize Michelle Obama’s work and attitude. Walking up to the second row of the stadium with Zeinah, Amanda and Adriano made my heart beat just a little bit faster than usual. I felt important and ready to soak up every single bit of wisdom I could.
An important lesson I learned from listening to Mrs. Obama talk was to lead and live with empathy. A phrase her family likes to live by is “when they go low, we go high” and she talked a lot about that. She explained that in order to lead you must try your best to put yourself in the shoes of every person whom you’re leading. You must try to your best ability to understand others’ struggles and accomplishments, and why they act the way they do. She also spoke of staying true to yourself. When you’re true to yourself, others can see who you really are. Therefore, they can try and empathize with you just as you empathize with them. Living your true self is the only way to live a full and purposeful life.
I’ve saved my favourite words of hers for last. When she spoke of why she decided to entitle her book “Becoming”, Mrs. Obama explains that you’re never done growing, you’re never done learning and changing. You should always reflect on your decisions and try to better yourself. I related to specifically to this series of thoughts. It’s very important to me personally that I learn from every experience in my life, and that is what the title expresses. She says during the interview with Anne Mahon, “Our journeys end, we never reach a place where we just are and that’s it, and that’s the end. How sad would that be? If we just became? But the beauty of human life if we are blessed with health and longevity and life, there’s always a next chapter, there’s always a way to re-create yourself.”
After she finished speaking, Zeinah and I took a couple of deep breaths and talked about the interview. Slowly, the four of us made our way to the back of the arena where we got in line for pictures. We could spot a great number of U.S. Secret Service members which was overwhelming, but mostly cool. We had to leave our coats at a table outside the entrance to the V.I.P. room. We were counted and rushed in. The photos started immediately, and the Secret Service members moved everyone through the photo-line as quick as possible. Michelle looked at me with arms open for a hug. All I could think about during the embrace was “Michelle Obama is so good at hugging.” She shook all our hands and smiled. We were instructed to face the camera and two bright flashes caught our eyes. We should have been done. The first lady, however, looked at Zeinah, Amanda and me, completely ignoring the Secret Service members’ instructions to hurry along. She said, “You girls are here for a reason, don’t let anyone kill your momentum.” Mr. Magnifico managed to converse with her about what it’s like to share a house with people you don’t know in childhood. She commented to him that “they had a shared experience.” We began to move out of the limelight but not before Michelle and I smiled at each other one more time and I waved. All four of us were ushered out of the room to get our things. I hoped to see her again in the V.I.P room where other guests mingled and chatted. I hoped to ask her a question I had prepared, but I learned that she had been rushed to her motorcade and was likely half-way to the airport.
Overall the experience was amazing, and I thank the Chamber of Commerce for the once in a lifetime opportunity.
With a lot of anticipation, the big day came. I still couldn’t believe it, I was on my way to meet Michelle Obama! When I sat down in Bell MTS Place in the second row from the stage, my heart pounded, I couldn’t wait, and when she walked on stage, my mouth opened wide. I was dreaming. At this point, everyone in the room stood up and applauded and she smiled and waved to the 7500 people in the arena. Most of the patrons were high-end businessmen and women, along with me and 4 other high school kids looking so out of place. We were probably the youngest ones in the arena among all these successful people, but I felt a bewildering mixture of emotions: a strange sense of power and accomplishment, uneasiness at being part of such an audience, and a sense that I was unworthy of such an honour. I had never done anything big or life changing compared to all these people surrounding me. When Mrs. Obama started to talk, everyone in the room became hooked on her words as she shared stories about everything and nothing, about how it was to live and raise kids in the White House, about the transition between becoming the first lady and stepping down from that role, about meeting Barack (she originally thought he had a weird name!), about being a role model and a leader, about she came from a poor part of Chicago as a kid. So much information, so much to learn about the first lady, so much to learn about me.
After her conversation, we took a picture with her (I fangirled for a good 15 min before), she hugged me (OMG!!), she shook my hand. Before we parted, she told us something along the lines of “You’re not here by accident, someone out there thought you had the potential of becoming the leaders of tomorrow. You may think that what you’re doing is really small, but your small things made someone choose you to be here. We all start small before we do big things. Rome wasn’t built in one day! So, keep doing what you do.” (not exact). A special thank you to the Chamber of Commerce and Adriano Magnifico for considering me worthy for such an experience. I will not let them down.