Sharon Lorenzo reviews The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times.
I have always been a fan of Michelle Obama. I watched her manage her career at Princeton, Harvard Law School, a large Chicago law firm, then the campaign of her husband and eight years in the White House with two small girls. She made me feel that for sure she must have some magic formula to manage all that, knowing she had come from a small family in Chicago with neither of her parents having college degrees. This is her second book, and it follows her memoir called Becoming of 2018. What I found is that this effort outlines her toolbox, and how she developed a personal formula to manage everything that came her way. Starting with a mother, Marian Robinson, who set out some guidelines for her to follow that she had used on her own two children: the first was to build an early system of self-reliance as Michelle walked to school in kindergarten by herself. She was also given an alarm clock and was responsible for setting it, waking up on time, and making her bed along with other household chores. Her mom was begged to come to the White House to help with the children, and she not only stayed for all eight years, but she became the apple of the eye of all the staff who loved her quiet thoughtful ways of guiding the behind-the-scenes balance of the family.
Michelle outlines some headings like the following: We become bolder in brightness. She seemed to constantly be evaluating in each phase of her life how she could do better, reach higher, and emerge with volcanic clarity in a position of leadership. She refers often to her “kitchen cabinet” of girlfriends whom she relied on in high school, at Princeton, and then in her White House years. They helped her to ruminate on her options and find a clear path amidst a huge to-do list. Her White House staff for sure helped her navigate her many responsibilities. She even read the log of Laura Bush to see how one of her predecessors had navigated the years of her occupancy. She noted one very moving incident when one of her inner staffers confided that her father was in jail, and Michelle was so proud that this young woman chose to confide in her.
The story of how she met her husband at her Chicago law firm, then dated him and visited his family in Hawaii to see what kind of background he had, was a very telling chapter that laid the groundwork for their very tight marriage of over thirty years to date. They both grew up with wonderfully emotional parents who with modest means made so much effort to create warm and loving family structures. When Obama was offered the chance to run for the presidency, he gave Michelle the option of voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for this career path. She noted her anxiety about the decision but shared that their relationship was strong and stable, and this confidence let her arrive at a resounding YES vote on the future for both.
Two stories that she shared about her mishaps in the oval office of hugging the Queen of England when such a move was not allowed as well as having to give a speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver with the teleprompters out of order are just two times that show her strength, resilience, and fortitude. The Queen hugged her back and her Denver remarks were delivered completely from memory. One of her mottos was that if you fall you must get up and go high – reaching for a loftier goal. She has studied the writings of Maya Angelou, Stacey Abrams, and Ketanji Jackson.  She prides herself as surviving the isolation during the Covid pandemic by taking up knitting to calm her nerves and help her sit and think before taking on the next project or responsibility.
Critics who reviewed her book made the following remarks: Dawn Turner of the Washington Post said she is a lady with boldness, pluck and grit who tells the truth and stays tough.  Judith Newman of the New York Times said she is a world-class warrior and a bit of a nervous Nellie. Aida Edemariam of the Guardian says she is disarmingly honest about her fears.  I agree with all three after reading the book and think that taking the time to listen to all of her ideas and experiences made me come away with new goals and objectives for the road ahead in this new year of post-Covid opportunities. While men may have linear careers, many women, myself included, have to reinvent themselves quite often and find new career paths that challenge our strengths, embrace our goals and make us happy to move forward with work, family and friends.
Michelle Obama’s inspiring first book is about her childhood in Chicago – Becoming. $20.55
Header Image: By The White House from Washington, DC – P040515PS-0034, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=95458036
 Michelle Obama, The Light We Carry. Crown Publishing, NY, 2022, p. 120.
 Ibid, p. 222.
 Ibid, p. 289.
 Dawn Turner, Washington Post, Nov. 15, 2022.
 Judith Newman, New York Times, Nov. 15, 2022.
 Aida Edemariam, The Guardian, Nov. 20,2022.