(The Hill) – Michelle Obama says being “othered” as a child helped propel her aim to be “the best first lady.”
“We cannot pretend that kids don’t see when they’re being devalued, because anytime it happened to me as early as kindergarten, I knew it,” Obama told David Letterman in a preview clip from Audible’s “Michelle Obama: The Light Podcast,” obtained exclusively by ITK.
The full podcast episode is poised to be released on Tuesday.
“I knew in second grade that the second grade teacher thought we were all dumb and not worth it because she didn’t organize the class. She wasn’t giving us homework,” Obama said, adding that the educator “didn’t think the kids she was teaching were worthy.”
During the podcast, recorded during her nationwide promotional tour last year for her book “The Light we Carry,” Obama, 59, described her mother as being receptive to her complaints about the teacher.
“I had a mother who believed in my voice,” she said.
“What happened was my mother went up to that school, and that’s what mothers do — they go up to that school,” Obama said to chuckles from the audience.
“There were a handful of us who got tested — we were advanced. Not only were we smart, but we were smarter than smart, and we got skipped to the third grade,” the former first lady said.
“But there were only three of us. And I thought, what happened to the rest of the kids in that second grade class that didn’t have a mother who could advocate for them and didn’t have kids who could test out?”
The experience, the Chicago-raised former lawyer said, helped shape her.
“The world has made me practice liking myself. And that is a tool for young people: You cannot wait for somebody to see you. Because first of all, there are people who don’t even know you exist. They don’t even know your pain. They don’t know your struggle,” she said.
“This just isn’t race,” Obama told Letterman, “This is if you’re poor, if you live outside in a rural county, if you are not in the best school system, if you are a woman. There are many ways to be othered in this world. And for some of us, when it happens, it breaks us.”
Instead, Obama said it fueled her work in the White House and the launch of her “Let’s Move!” anti-childhood obesity and “Joining Forces” military families initiatives.
“For me, I just happen to be that smart aleck kid that was like, ‘Oh, I’ll show you. I will show you. You doubt me, I’ll work harder,’” she exclaimed.
“So by the time I got to the White House, I was like, ‘Oh you don’t think I’m gonna be the best first lady that you have ever seen?’ I am going to work so hard,” Obama said, her voice growing louder.
“I’m going to launch so many initiatives,” she continued. “I’m going to be all over the world. You just wait!”