Oprah Talks to Michelle Obama
The Exclusive O Interview
Photo: Bruce Weber
Our new First Lady on the surprises of life in the White House ("If you want pie, there's pie! If something breaks, it's fixed. In an hour")...the rules she's laid down for Malia and Sasha ("I want the kids to be treated like children, not little princesses")...and how she hopes to use "one of the best jobs in the world" to help women transform their lives.On the second floor of the White House, the Yellow Oval Room—part of the First Family's private residence—offers a stunning view of the nation's capital. The Washington Monument stretches into the heavens. The Lincoln Memorial sits above the glassy water of the Reflecting Pool. In the distance, you can see the U.S. Capitol, where the world's attention was focused on January 20 as millions gathered to witness an event many had thought would never happen. This room is where I interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama in February, and as I gazed out the windows and took in the view, I was struck by the immense legacy she and her family have inherited. I felt the weight of history, and I understood what she means when she says, as she often does, "This is not about us."
Yet for all the majesty of the White House, the First Lady has already infused it with a palpable ease; her presence makes the place feel open and approachable. When we sit down to talk, she seems as relaxed as she did when I first interviewed her and her husband in their Chicago apartment in 2004. "This room has the best light in the house," she tells me as we settle in, shoes off, on a comfortable sofa. "And there's pie here, too. The pie in the White House is dangerously good."
The Obamas packed up their belongings in Chicago and headed for Washington in early January so 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha could get started at their new school. A few weeks later, Michelle and her mother, Marian Robinson, began settling the family into their new home. When I returned to Chicago after the inauguration, I spent the weekend thinking, "I wonder what the Obamas are doing now?" Later, when I was looking for some cough syrup in my medicine cabinet, I suddenly thought, "Michelle never has to go out to buy cough syrup again!" For the First Lady and her family, it's a whole new reality. As we talk, she tells me how they're adjusting—and what she's planning to do in her awesome new role.
Oprah: I had heart palpitations coming through the White House gate, recognizing that this really is now your home. It's the White House, and it's your home.
Michelle Obama: And it's a beautiful home. When you go out and come back, especially at night, with all the white lights on—it's just beautiful. We feel privileged, and we feel a responsibility to make it feel like the people's house. We have the good fortune of being able to sleep here, but this house belongs to America.
Oprah: Your saying that makes me feel different than I've ever felt about the White House. When you say that, I actually do now, for the first time, think, "Yeah, it is the people's house." How did you come to understand that so clearly?
Michelle Obama: Well, I had some time to think about it, because we ran for so long...
Oprah: The longest run anybody's ever seen.
Michelle Obama: Right. And at some point, you start thinking about what living here would really mean. I've taken Barack's mantra: This isn't about us. There's so much history here that no one family can claim this space as their own.
Next: Inside Inauguration Day with Michelle Obama
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