Former first lady Michelle Obama was interviewed by “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts for “Becoming Michelle: A First Lady’s Journey with Robin Roberts,” a special edition of “20/20.” The following is a transcript of that ABC News special, which aired on Nov. 11, 2018.
ROBIN ROBERTS: What is it about Chicago?
MICHELLE OBAMA: I’ve traveled all over the world. And Chicago still by far is one of the most beautiful cities.
WE’RE TAKING A RIDE AROUND THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD AND BACK IN TIME WITH FORMER FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA.
MICHELLE OBAMA: We’re on Jeffery Boulevard. This was the– this was where the rich kids lived. And then you’ll see. We’ll cross the tracks.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Uh oh
MICHELLE OBAMA: And we’ll get in my neighborhood.
MICHELLE LAVAUGHN ROBINSON GREW UP ON THE HUMBLE SIDE OF THE RAILROAD TRACKS, IN A DIVERSE WORKING CLASS PART OF CHICAGO. THE WORLD WOULD COME TO KNOW HER AS MICHELLE OBAMA, AMERICA’S FIRST LADY – THE REGAL WOMAN WITH THE COMMON TOUCH.
AS AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK FIRST FAMILY, THE OBAMAS USHERED IN A MODERN ERA TO THE WHITE HOUSE. DIVERSITY FILLED THE INNER CIRCLES, HEALTHY-INITIATIVE VEGETABLE GARDENS GREW ALONGSIDE ROSE GARDENS, AND THE SOUND OF YOUNG CHILDREN WARMED THE FAMILY RESIDENCE ONCE AGAIN.
MICHELLE OBAMA: So we’re crossing the tracks. This is still South Shore. This was my walk to school. Across the street I usually meet my friend Terry Johnson right in front of that garage. This is my block.
THREE GENERATIONS OF ROBINSONS LIVED HERE, ON EUCLID AVENUE. A HOME OWNED BY MICHELLE’S GREAT AUNT ROBBIE AND UNCLE TERRY. HERE, AUNT ROBBIE IS HOLDING MICHELLE WHEN SHE WAS AN INFANT.
[PHOTO OF MICHELLE OBAMA’S AUNT]
ROBIN ROBERTS: So this is the house–
MICHELLE OBAMA: This is my house.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Wow—
MICHELLE OBAMA: And that was– that’s where we lived, upstairs. The– Robbie and Terry lived downstairs. That was my bedroom. So you see the four windows? I walk in there and I think, “My God, how four people–
ROBIN ROBERTS: Well, what–
MICHELLE OBAMA: Lived a full life in that little, bitty space, up there. Yes, yeah. Up until recently this little apartment was sort of our inheritance. So any time anybody hit on hard times, we’d just move back up there. You know?
MICHELLE TOLD ME, SHE WOULDN’T RUN INTO ANYONE SHE KNEW BUT, SHE DID.
[MICHELLE OBAMA GREETING A NEIGHBOR]
MICHELLE OBAMA: Hey, hi, oh my God, it’s good to see you.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Nice to meet you, Mr. Reed.
MICHELLE OBAMA: How’s everything going in the neighborhood?
MR. REED: Going well. How’s Miss Robinson?
MICHELLE OBAMA: She’s good yeah, yeah, I’ll tell her that we saw you.
ROBIN ROBERTS: See this is what you’re talking about, it’s a small town.
WE SAT DOWN TOGETHER IN THE CURRENT OBAMA HOME BASE JUST FIVE MILES NORTH OF WHERE SHE GREW UP. IT’S THE HOUSE THE YOUNG FAMILY CALLED HOME, LEADING UP TO THEIR EVENTUAL MOVE TO WASHINGTON.
MICHELLE OBAMA’S NEW BOOK, “BECOMING” IS A VERY PERSONAL LOOK AT HER LIFE — BOTH INSIDE AND OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE. SHE SAYS SHE HOPES THE CANDID BOOK, GENERATES CONVERSATION.
(Michelle Obama reading from “Becoming”) “Here I am… with a lot I want to say.”
FRASER ROBINSON, A WATER PLANT EMPLOYEE, AND HIS WIFE MARIAN, A STAY AT HOME MOM, EMPHASIZED EDUCATION AND EXCELLENCE FOR THEIR TWO CHILDREN. FOR A YOUNG MICHELLE, NAVIGATING THE BIGGER WORLD OUTSIDE HER HOME, SOMETIMES FELT LIKE SPEAKING A SECOND LANGUAGE.
ROBIN ROBERTS: There was one time you write about that I think you were about ten years old at the time. And you cousin said to you, “Why do you talk like a white girl. How do you square who you are, where you come from, with where you wanna go?
MICHELLE OBAMA: It was one of those kind of moments where it was, like, “Pssh, you’re not like us.” And it was because of my speech. At this point– the viewers who are watching this, there’re a lot of people nodding because when you grew up in the neighborhood, you know, you could get your butt kicked goin’ to school if you looked too uppity or if you were studying too hard. So I had to grow up learning these two languages of how do I fit in with my family and my community and still excel? This wouldn’t be the first time that my identity would be challenged. You know, where people couldn’t figure out who I was with how I talked and what they– who they thought I should be.
HER MOTHER MARIAN ROBINSON HELPED MICHELLE BUILD A SENSE OF SELF. MARIAN IS KNOWN TO MANY FOR HER DEDICATION TO FAMILY — FAMOUSLY MOVING INTO THE FIRST MODERN WHITE HOUSE “MOTHER-IN-LAW SUITE.”
THERE TO HELP HER DAUGHTER NAVIGATE THE DEMANDS OF RAISING A PRIVATE FAMILY IN A VERY PUBLIC HOUSE.
MICHELLE OBAMA: My parents from early age encouraged us to put our opinions on the table, to ask questions. To question context of situations. They encouraged us to understand the context.
ROBIN ROBERTS: they weren’t there to prevent you from falling, but to pick you up when you did.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. You could speak your mind, but you had to be respectful, you know? And if you got outta hand, you got a look. You’d get a spanking. They weren’t free wheelin’ parents. They were still black parents. But they believed in teaching us to think for ourselves.
MICHELLE’S FATHER GAVE HIS CHILDREN A MEMORABLE LESSON ON THE DIGNITY OF WORK AND TRUE VALUE OF HARD EARNED MONEY.
MICHELLE OBAMA: My parents were very clear, you know we weren’t rich. I remember there was a time my brother wanted to understand ’cause he couldn’t get somethin’ that he wanted. And my father laid out all the bills, brought home his paycheck in cash. And took every bill and put money on top of it to show what it costs and how much he brought in and what was left. They wanted to make it clear. You know, there was money earned and money that went out.
SOURCE: ABC News