Michelle Obama and Oprah talk women rights, shopping and Barack’s swag

Photo: A.R. Shaw at United State of Women
Photo: A.R. Shaw at United State of Women

The White House United State of Women Summit featured some of the top influencers in business, politics, entertainment, and the arts. Held at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., the event featured 5,200 women. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire Warren Buffett, Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington were all in attendance, with first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah serving as keynote speakers.

Michelle Obama and Oprah sat down for an intimate conversation that allowed attendees and the viewing audience to hear their thoughts on women’s rights, self-confidence, leaving the White House, and Barack Obama’s swag.

Here are highlights from their talk.

On having self-confidence: 
Michelle Obama: :One of the things that I always — I tell my mentees, I tell my daughters is that our first job in life as women, I think, is to get to know ourselves. And I think a lot of times we don’t do that. We spend our time pleasing, satisfying, looking out into the world to define who we are — listening to the messages, the images, the limited definitions that people have of who we are.  And that’s true for women of color for sure. There is a limited box that we are put in, and if we live by that limited definition we miss out on a lot of who we are.”

Oprah: “It’s the thing that allows you to stand in your own truth. And one of the things for years that Maya Angelou used to say to me, is ‘Baby, you need to know that you alone are enough. You alone are enough.’ ”

On inspiring others:
Michelle Obama: “I just want to make sure that when people leave here they don’t go back into their isolation; that they don’t go back to their phones, looking down. Because this relationship isn’t enough. You need to have people in your lives that you’re connecting with, that you’re helping. I mean, there is nothing that makes me feel better than knowing that I helped to change somebody’s life.”

Oprah: “I read this quote from Dr. King, one of my favorite quotes from him, that says, ‘Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.’ And I literally shifted — I used that quote to help me shift the way I saw the platform of television.”

On President Barack Obama’s swag:
Michelle Obama: “[Barack] was very swagalicious. [Laughter.]  Look, I told people this from the very start, when I — started running — Barack Obama is exactly who he says he is. We both are. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell people. Ain’t no surprises. We’re telling you who we are, and no tricks up our sleeves. We’re regular folks. We care about people. We care about family. We want to do well. We want to make our country proud.  We don’t want to waste our talents just making money for ourselves.”

On shopping after leaving the White House:
Michelle Obama: “I want to walk down a street. I want to sit in a yard that is not a national park. I do want to drop into Target. I want to go to Target again!  [Laughter.]  I’ve heard so many things have changed in Target! I tell my friends they’re going to have to give me a re-entry training for like, OK, what do you do at CVS now?  How do you check out? It’s like I’ve been living in a cave. But it is, it’s the small things, fresh air. In the White House, you can’t open a window. Sasha opened her window once — there were calls. ‘Shut the window!’ It never opened again.”

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.



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