Michelle Obama and Barack banter about quarantining, their early days in her debut podcast

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·6 min read

Michelle Obama debuted her podcast with a very special guest, Barack Obama.

The former first lady promised that guests on The Michelle Obama Podcast will be the people “closest” to her — her mother, brother, friends and colleagues — but she kicked it off with a “very special someone,” her husband. She and the former president talked about their upbringings, their early days together, how they found fulfillment professionally, their hopes for their daughters — and the world. The best parts were when they bantered back and forth, whether it was her making fun of his early rides (“that yellow car with that hole in the bottom”) and him joking about being her “meal ticket.”

Michelle said at the top of the 49-minute episode. “Like most Americans, we’ve been spending a lot of time together in quarantine.”

Barack jumped in, “You don’t seem too happy about that the way she said it, right?”

She shot back, “It’s just a fact. There wasn’t a judgment. We’ve been together...”

He replied, “I've been loving it.”

She agreed, “Yeah, I’ve been having a great time. But we’ve had some interesting conversations... Because these are some crazy times.”

That set the tone for the conversation, which largely focused on community, with Michelle explaining, “We weren’t built to do this thing called life in a vacuum.”

Later, Michelle was talking about how Barack “could have done anything because of your academic achievement. Because you were the number one student at Harvard Law Review, the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review, top of your class...” However, he started in community organizing.

“Yeah, see that’s why you started dating me,” he replied. “I was going to be a meal ticket... You didn’t know I was gonna do some...”

Michelle gave him a “nah” to all that, replying, “Yeah, I didn’t know you were gonna be like what?”

When he answered, “Broke,” she quipped, “You were running away from the money! I was like, “What is wrong with this negro? [laughs]

Later in the podcast, from Spotify and Higher Ground Productions, Michelle was revealing one of the reasons she fell in love with him and he interrupted, “It wasn’t just my looks... but that’s OK.” She responded, “You’re cute you know... But, no, one of the reasons I fell in love with you is because you are guided by the principle that we are each other’s brother's and sister’s keepers. And that’s how I was raised.”

Barack talked about becoming a community organizer because he felt it was a less lonely path.

“When I thought about how I was going to spend my life, what I looked at was what those civil rights workers had done and the Freedom Riders had done,” he said, “I thought: That looks like hard work but it never looks like lonely work.”

Michelle talked about feeling lonely at her law firm, checking all the boxes by going to Princeton and Harvard Law School but feeling unfulfilled with her job. She later quit, deciding to serve the Chicago community instead.

“I came to learn the same thing you learned that while working on the 47th floor in that fancy law firm making all that money — that it felt lonely,” she said. “It felt isolating. And you know, I had this amazing view of the southeast side of city from my office. I could see the lake and I could see all of the neighborhood that had I come from. And I never felt further from that neighborhood than when I was sitting in that office working on briefs and cases that had nothing to do with anything that helped a broader group of people outside of myself.”

They also bantered about Michelle’s box-checking, with Barack talking about the Saab she drove when she had her law firm job.

“That was what I thought. Get out of school, buy a nice car, you know?” she said.

He asked, “Remember the wine club? ... You were a wine club member.”

She laughed, “And we didn’t even drink wine back then... I never opened the bottle. I just joined the wine club. It seemed like the very professional thing to do.”

He said, “I think I teased you a little bit on that one... The Saab did have heated seats though.”

She said, “Oh, you loved the Saab. Don’t act like... Especially coming from that yellow car with that hole in the bottom... I was like, ‘No we are not taking your car, my brother, we are taking the Saab [laughs] .”

He admitted, “I was still driving those $1,000-dollar, $500 cars.”

They also touched on important topics like the current climate of the country, though not naming President Trump, and voting in November.

Barack said, “The good news is, that when you look at all these young people who’ve been out there protesting in the wake of the George Floyd murder, that’s their instinct. It’s not uniform, and it could still go both ways in this country just like its teetering one way or the other in countries all around the world. This is not unique to the United States, it's we just got our own version of it.”

Michelle admitted, “The only thing that worries me, and I agree, in terms of the hope that I feel when I look at young people, just how they were raised, the values, their exposure, the questions that they have, the change in the economy that's forcing them to ask a certain set of questions – that give me hope. But the thing that I worry is that I hear too many young people who question whether voting, whether politics is worth it.”

The former president said, “I think folks are going to do the right thing,”

When Michelle called him being an eternal optimist, he replied, “I'm the ‘Yes, We Can!’ man. I am The Audacity of Hope guy.”

But they agreed there’s no alternative, with Barack saying, “I think where we disagree is usually you just think things just have to get super, super bad before folks figure stuff out.”

She replied, “Well, I hope we’re at that point.”

Barack said, “I’m always thinking, you know, what maybe we can learn a little bit.”

Michelle replied, “No, we’ll figure it out before we crash into the sun,” leading them to reference the sci-fi film Lost in Space.

After the interview, Michelle encouraged that listeners pursue these types of conversations with family members and friends to “create the change we’re all hoping for.”

She said, “I know a lot of you are hurting out there right now, a lot of you are confused and that’s OK,” Michelle said. “But as I’ve seen, as Barack has seen, we can take that anger, that disappointment and turn it into something useful. Perhaps, even something hopeful. But we just have to keep having those conversations because once we start the conversation there is no telling where it will go.”

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