Our Thoughts on the Michelle Obama Podcast

While listening to Michelle Obama’s first episode of her new podcast, which can be found for free on Spotify, I had some thoughts I wanted to share, and I asked some friends in Zenerations for their input as well. Many of these are tangents, thoughts diverging from the specific topic the Obamas talked about, but still related. I think Michelle Obama made this podcast to encourage  people to think, to have people connect to the community around them, to find connections between individuals around them.

Sage Freed:

When I started listening to the first episode, I was struck at how comfortable I felt listening to the Obamas. It’s hard to describe, but it was much more like a conversation at dinner than what I thought it would be like. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but it gave a similar, but slightly different element from her book, Becoming. There’s something about listening to a former president talk like an actual human being, and not sombre and diplomatic like in a speech, that really reeled me in. I wanted to hear what they had to say, not from the point of view of the president and first lady, but as regular people who participate in their community.

“Schools don’t show you the world, they just show you a bunch of careers.”  This quotation has really stuck with me. As someone in high school, it’s so obviously the truth that it hides itself in plain sight. We’re always asked, what college do you want to get into, what major, do you know what job you want after college? Make sure you take enough APs, and these extracurriculars will make you look good during college applications. The schools also perpetuate that our counselors are there solely for college, and in my school of hundreds of students, there is only one actual psychologist. I didn’t even know he existed until I saw the plaque by his door. 

Michelle and Barack talk about how they grew up thinking that people shouldn’t have it all, and yet young people now think they can get whatever they want. Why was there that change, how did that idea change over the generations? Why did the adults try to change the narrative? I’m not entirely sure why this narrative changed; maybe it was the expansion of technology that made it easier to get what we want, or just that the young people decided it wasn’t okay, and changed the narrative themselves. In some ways, I think this idea has helped us “young people” understand what people are lacking, and that we all deserve things that maybe we couldn’t get before. We’re taught that we can go to any college we want, or get any job we want, and yet the world just isn’t set up that way. Getting jobs that pay enough is difficult (the minimum wage is not a livable wage), furthermore colleges are extortionate and hard to get into. The barriers we didn’t learn about when we grew up have suddenly sprung up in front of us. Not to mention, certain groups of peoples’ barriers are much higher than others, and we also grew up learning about a past that wasn’t right too.

I think one of the many reasons that we show a disdain to politics is because of the Me vs Them mentality. Politicians are so used to thinking about what they want, and how their policies can positively impact them, that they forget about the rest of their constituents. Is the problem the “me” or the “them”? We’ve been so caught up with that argument, oftentimes in only vaguely relevant instances, that real change is pushed to the wayside. And that’s one of the reasons the younger generations avoid voting and politics. To us, protesting on the streets and taking it up on the internet is so much easier. A little ironic though, because the politicians we don’t vote for are the ones we’re trying to reach through our actions. 

Lindsay Khalluf:

Personally, a quotation that stood out to me the most was from Michelle Obama explaining the difference between ideologies from past generations to ours, where she notes, “because if you had it all, that meant somebody didn’t have anything.” This remark stuck with me for the entirety of the episode, as it hit very close to home, not just for me, but for anyone who acknowledges the flaws in our economy. The gap between the poor and rich gets larger each year. During this pandemic, CEOS such as Jeff Bezos gained billions, while many lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. The “American Dream” mentality of being unfathomably rich has practically been ingrained in our heads since birth. When someone is acquiring that much money, it is at the expense of the people who make the dream possible in the first place, (the working class). People such as Jeff Bezos could be solving climate change, yet choose not to. There is no reason as to why someone would need billions of dollars. No human being needs this much money, especially when millions are in poverty and the Earth is dying.

Paulina Morales:

Former first lady Michelle Obama recently released the debut episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast with her first guest being her husband and former president Barack Obama. I’ll admit, I excitedly waited for the first episode and repeatedly refreshed the Spotify webpage on my laptop until I saw it pop up. Without knowing what to expect, I dragged my mouse towards the “play” icon, clicked, and quietly listened for the next fifty minutes. 

Rather than a standard interview that would consist of generic questions and even more generic responses, what came was an honest and uplifting conversation between the Obamas that covered various topics, but they mainly focused on the relationship between community and government. Is there a true difference between the two, and how do community values, if any, shape our perspectives and reactions to the world around us? Questions like these were at the core of the discussion, and as a listener, I felt as if I were almost in the room with them, questioning the intersectionality and dependency between my own community and government. 

Young people, including those from Generation Z, have taken the world by storm with renewed efforts in the fight for social justice and equality, and this prompted the Obamas to comment on the distinctive idealism of our generation. While we do strive to create systematic change, the Obama’s point out that the same idealism that drives young people simultaneously creates a dangerous division between the public and the government as the idealism is accompanied by cynicism. Yes, idealism motivates young people to believe that they can change the world, but Michelle and Barack argue that collectivism amongst different communities and government is necessary to make structural and impactful change. The cynicism that follows short attempts of activism only reinforces the belief that “government doesn’t work” when in reality the public must work with the government to see progress, and not necessarily overthrow the entire system. I always did recognize the danger that cynicism poses on our democracy, but I never realized that idealism has the potential to create the same amount of damage. True collectivism amongst communities creates a powerful movement that reaffirms or challenges the values that determine the future of the country; therefore, we can’t be naive to believe that a single march, social media trend, or speech can change the world, but instead we must recognize that true historic change is an ongoing process that requires unity, discussion, and empathy amongst communities. Through this, we can then see the demands of the public reflected in elections and policies. 

In the bigger picture, there is no true difference between a member of the public or an elected official because each person has an important role in maintaining a functioning democracy, and Barack states that “all government is us collectively making decisions together.” People must stop buying into the cynicism that their vote or voice doesn’t matter because such beliefs can spread like a rapid fire that persuades others to be complacent with the state of our society. We must instead focus on building genuine community relationships with one another that can then instill values for future generations to practice. This notion may not be groundbreaking to many listeners, but the conversation served as a gentle reminder and point of guidance for our generation as we continue to take on a more proactive role in this world. 

In the bigger picture, there is no true difference between a member of the public or an elected official because each person has an important role in maintaining a functioning democracy, and Barack states that “all government is us collectively making decisions together.” People must stop buying into the cynicism that their vote or voice doesn’t matter because such beliefs can spread like a rapid fire that persuades others to be complacent with the state of our society. We must instead focus on building genuine community relationships with one another that can then instill values for future generations to practice. This notion may not be groundbreaking to many listeners, but the conversation served as a gentle reminder and point of guidance for our generation as we continue to take on a more proactive role in this world. 

Conversations like this must happen more frequently. I felt a sense of peace as the episode was coming to an end because these two leaders truly believe that young people have the capacity to create change. I personally found this relieving as a great portion of elected officials and adults attempt to dissuade young people from getting involved in “politics” because we’re too “young” to understand what is going on. I left the episode with a renewed sense of hope that I didn’t even realize was missing and with even more questions to ask myself about the future of our country. Michelle Obama’s first episode has something for everyone, and some listeners may leave with a renewed sense of hope and optimism, or others may leave with even more questions about the future of our country. Nevertheless, I encourage everyone to go listen to The Michelle Obama Podcast, for free on Spotify, and engage in the conversation. 

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