Former First Lady Michelle Obama had a candid conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross at the United State of Women Conference on Saturday afternoon in the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. According to The Hollywood Reporter, their discussion covered a variety of issues that face women including motherhood and mentorship.
But their talk took a pivotal turn when Ross asked Obama how she came to find and use her voice. Obama credited her parents for affirming that she was both smart and capable. But she is concerned that the country’s failure to elect a woman president, seeing as Hillary Clinton was more qualified, speaks to the amount of work ahead that women need to do on themselves and their daughters.
Growing up, Obama was encouraged to assert herself whether she was challenging her grandfather Dandy at age four or learning to play catch alongside her brother Craig. Having a mother as a strong role model and a father’s love gave her the confidence to dream big–something that Obama believes women still strongly lack.
Obama said that intelligent, confident, capable women are created in the home. She uses many of the same experiences she benefited from as a child with her own girls, Sasha and Malia. The girls are encouraged to participate in conversations about real issues around the dinner table which includes some pretty frank debates with their father.
The wife and mother of two is adamant that men must lead the charge in the largely male-dominated workplace of making gender equality a reality. It isn’t enough to “whisper magical thoughts in your daughter’s ear.” When they enter the workplace, women face a harsh reality that just dreaming big isn’t enough to make those dreams come true.
Confirming once again that she is not running for office, Obama told the audience that women must first turn inward and work on themselves before looking to elect one person to save us all. She says that the country didn’t learn the real lesson of Barack’s campaign slogan, “Yes, we can.”
Ultimately, Obama said, women have to start where they are to make lasting changes. Mothers, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers have more influence over the people in their circles than she ever will.