'We go high': Michelle Obama talks Chicago childhood, life after White House in exclusive interview

Obama says growing up on South Side built essential 'foundation' for getting through tough times

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Wednesday, December 7, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Michelle Obama talks Chicago childhood, life after White House
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Michelle Obama spoke exclusively with ABC7 ahead of her final Chicago Theatre show promoting her new book, "The Light We Carry."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Michelle Obama said the last few years were not easy, even for her.

The tough days of the pandemic had her reaching in her own toolbox.

"I was in a low place just like everyone else, and I had to find my light in order to be able to share it with the young people who were looking up to me, asking me, 'How, when, how did we get here? How do I get out?' This book was born out of necessity for me to pull myself out of the dark space and think about 'How do I do that?'" Obama said.

It's a question Obama says many young people are asking.

"They're struggling with anxiety. They're struggling with how to overcome their fears," Obama said. "They want to know how they overcome these feelings of being imposters in their own skin."

It's a question she found the answer to years ago, right at home in Chicago. She said her childhood on Euclid Avenue on the city's South Side was "the foundation" for developing essential tools.

"We were poor. We lived in a small house, but what they gave us was a feeling of importance, a belief that our voices mattered at a very young age, a sense of understanding, of pushing through, resilience," Obama. "None of this had to do with money, but it's been the foundation for everything I've been able to do in my life."

Obama spoke candidly about what it was like growing up with a parent with a disability.

"Most people know my father had MS," Obama said.

She talked about the breadwinner who she watched go from standing to falling and the lesson that taught her.

"We had to make adjustments and be very adaptable as a family to make sure he could get to and from places. We learned that at an early age. So, we were cautious. We were vulnerable in ways that we probably didn't even realize. But, we also saw him fall and get up and keep going," Obama said.

It's a tool she would later use to coin the phrase, "When they go low, we go high." It's not just a motto to her or her husband, but an action plan.

"Going high is a reminder for me and my husband that we have a responsibility to make sure that the people are listening to us in a rational, thoughtful way," Obama said. "So, when people ask me, 'Is it still time to go high?' The answer I give is, 'Yes. Always yes.'"

Obama and ABC7's Val Warner are just getting started. Tune in to Windy City Weekend on Friday to watch Warner's exclusive interview with the former first lady.

She dives deeper into the importance of relationships from her girlfriends at the kitchen table, her parents and, of course, the man she calls home, former President Barack Obama. You'll want to see how she takes Val to school on her son!