Tacoma Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Michelle Obama

Photo by: Joanna Kresge

Tacoma welcomed former First Lady Michelle Obama on March 24 when she brought her book tour for Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama to the Tacoma Dome — which drew the largest crowd to date on the nationwide, and international, tour.

The March event was a makeup show — the previous one in February had been cancelled due to snow. To say the crowd was excited to see her would be an understatement. The Tacoma streets were flooded that day: lots of excited grandmas, moms, and daughters, especially — spending their Sunday together shopping boutiques, eating at local restaurants, and checking out the rich museum scene. The visit by Obama was a win for Tacoma in more ways than one.

But before Obama graced the stage at the newly revamped Tacoma Dome, she made a private appearance at the downtown Tacoma Library to meet with the members of the Balanced Black Girl Book Club. The black SUVs full of Secret Service agents pulled in the back alley that Sunday afternoon and Obama casually slipped in the behind the scenes of the library. Members of the media also were invited to see a portion of this intimate appearance. 

The former First Lady was warm and couldn’t help but smile when one book club member said, “I’m so inspired by you. Thank you for writing it,” as she clutched Obama’s book to her chest. Another member of the book club simply said, “I can’t believe it,” as she fanned herself. There were 13 women in attendance, and all were in awe. 

Obama told the book club that she always knew that she would write a book — it was on her list, a box she always had planned to check. She said that everyone has a story to share, but many people don’t value their own stories. “We think a story has to be something impactful and powerful, and dynamic, but the truth is that what you connect with, those are really small, delicate memories,” Obama said. 

Photo by: Jeff Burlingame

She also told the book club that she purposely chose to leave a lot of things out of the book. “You see I didn’t talk about law school at all,” Obama said. “I mean the stuff is there, but to move the narrative along … the publishers were like, ‘We want to the book to be readable, the longer it gets the more unlikely the people will actually connect with the story.’ So, we had to make some choices.”

It was clear that both the book club and the fans that came to the talk at the Tacoma Dome did connect with a lot of Obama’s message. The conversation between moderator Jimmy Kimmel and Obama also was enlightening, and a lot of times, plain funny. Kimmel, for example, said Tacoma smelled considerably better than he remembered, and asked Obama if she ever used the F-word. Which she replied, “Oh, yeah! But I try not to.” 

Obama also shared personal things, like how she never took a full breath until after they left The White House. And how the family still faces challenges from living in a bubble. But she still has lists, and goals, and boxes in her life to check. “We’ve been everywhere,” she said. “And have seen nothing.” 

Tacoma saw a lot: They not only saw Michelle Obama — the less buttoned-up and more relaxed version — but they also saw Michelle Robinson, the feisty little girl from the South Side of Chicago whose parents fanned the flame that burned inside her. They taught her to speak up – and to be herself, never dampening her bright personality. Now via her book and tour, she’s inspiring so many others to find their voices, too.

is the editor in chief at South Sound magazine.
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