Michelle Obama and the Roots of Reinvention

How the First Lady learned to dream big.

By Geraldine Brooks
Photograph: Photo by: Matthew Rolston

If Barack Obama wins the election, says Connie Schultz, "Michelle will have a new job whether she wants it or not. And the first lady job doesn’t pay." But Schultz, who was reluctant to see her own husband run for the senate, feels she understands what brought Michelle around. "You’re looking at all these people pushing him. And you hear the hope in his voice. And so you’re going to be the big fat obstacle? Your only note in history is, you’re the reason he didn’t run?"

In an e-mail, Obama tells me that she’s "put heart and soul" into the campaign — and knows what’s at stake. She relates the story of a little girl in a Newberry, South Carolina, beauty shop who asked her, " ‘Mrs. Obama, do you realize that if Barack Obama wins, it will be historical?!’ I said, ‘What would that mean to you?’ She told me, ‘It will mean I can dream anything for myself.’ This election is all about making sure my girls and all of our kids grow up in a world where they can dream anything and then reach those dreams."

The little girl teared up, says Obama. "I couldn’t help but hug her. There was so much of this little girl in me. Dreaming big."

Originally published in MORE magazine, October 2008.

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