Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert
Today was my first time ever to walk beyond the big black gates that mark the outskirts of the White House. We got to walk through the front door into a great marble hall where music was playing. We then went into the East Room, which is the biggest room of the White House. Once we were there we watched a press conference with Michelle Obama and 200 kids whose parents work at the White House. The session lasted about forty minutes. During this time, Mrs. Obama answered questions. She was wearing a beautiful orange skirt, shirt and cardigan. She said the outfit came from various stores that I commonly go to, like J.Crew and Target!
From the press conference it was evident that the first lady; or as she is called in the White House, FLOTUS, was very good with people. She was very well spoken and engaging. She said she loves kids because of their honesty and enjoyed answering the many questions thrown at her. After the press conference, we were taken into the old family dining room for a round table discussion with the Mrs. Obama. There were about fourteen of us sitting at the table, Michelle Obama, five female reporters with their kids and three staff members. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Michelle Obama sat right across from me! She answered each of our individual questions with care.
I had the opportunity to ask two questions. The first: What did Michelle Obama do when she disagreed with something President Obama had done/said? She said that they always talked about decisions and often her input changed some of the outcomes. The second question: How do you make sure that people don’t just be friends with Malia and Sasha because they’re the Obamas and how do you know who’s your real friend and who’s not your real friend? She replied by saying, “Over time, you learn. And that’s what I tell them. Be open to people, but they have good instincts because -- and I feel like I do. You can tell and they have a very good radar for that because -- and they might not know right away, but people show you who they are over time. You just have to pay attention. And what I tell them is when people show you who they are, listen.” Mainly when people start acting phony you know that they aren’t your real friends.
From the meeting with her, I took a few things away, that she is humble, kind and took her mothering job seriously. Her first priority is as Michelle not as the first lady. Mrs. Obama works hard as a mother and monitors her children’s screen time. The Obama kids cannot do anything unrelated to school with a screen during the week and they get two hours on Friday and Sunday and three hours on Saturday! I think these are good rules, except I don’t know what I would do daily without my computer! Both girls are required to be involved in both a team and individual sport. Mrs. Obama says that a team sport was something she lacked as a kid. A very inspiring thing she said about sports was, “Kids tend to quit when it starts getting hard, which means that’s when they're starting to learn something.” I feel like this information relates to everything in life and the only way to learn or get better at something is if you keep pushing, even when it gets too hard.
Mrs. Obama was also very humble and relatable. At times, I didn’t think I was in the presence of the first lady but just another person like me. Michelle Obama said with a smile on her face that, "We all pretty much want the same thing, with very minimal -- the stuff on the fringes is the stuff on the edges, but the core of what we want for our kids and our communities, that’s true regardless of race, political party." Meaning that all of us can relate somehow and I really understood this when she said it. She wants the same things for her daughters as my mom wants for me. She clears her schedule to be there for her kids and so does my mother. Obviously my mom isn’t cancelling press conferences but like Mrs. Obama said, the "core" of what each of them are missing is the same, since deep down all they want is the best for their daughters. From what she said, I can tell that all mothers operate similarly.
Michelle Obama was also extremely kind. She gave me great advice about knowing who to trust as friends and how high school isn’t all about the social scene and not to be afraid of it. She said to make sure not to exclude others and focus on my schoolwork. Even if high school isn’t a paradise she says it’s only four years of my life. She pulled me aside and told me I had nothing to worry about. She told me that I should always treat other students the way I expect them to treat me; soon enough they will. I assume this is advice she gives to herself.
She says she loves people and I understand why. It’s because she treats everyone so kindly that they treat her back with the same love. She brought a group of news competitors together and created bonds without merely trying. Michelle Obama is a very inspirational woman. Earlier today she answered the question, “Would you ever run for president?” by saying, “Absolutely not.” Yet I think she has the perfect qualities to be a leader, community booster and from stories she told today I know she can eloquently handle stress better than most women I know!
Amanda Kahn is a soon-to-be freshman at Bronx Science High School in New York City. Read Jodi Kahn's essay about their day at the White House here.
Watch Michelle Obama welcome young people to the White House on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day: