tv AC 360 Special History Made The Legacy of Michelle Obama CNN January 13, 2017 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
>> there was nothing in my life as a black girl from the southside of chicago that said i should be standing here. >> her journey is nothing less than remarkable. first lady michelle obama, once a reluctant campaigner. >> the truth is most americans don't opt into this. >> a target on the campaign trail. >> it made me wonder just how are people seeing me? >> now a voice for generations. >> the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls. >> she turned political dynamo. >> our motto is when they go low, we go high.
>> tonight a revealing look at first lady michelle obama. she is more than the first african-american first lady. today she is a global icon and a political power house. i'm randi kay and this is a cnn special report. history made. the legacy of michelle obama. >> january 17th, 1964 on the southside of chicago, a future first lady is born. michelle la vaughn robinson grew up in the south shore. her older brother craig remembers it well. >> we didn't know how poor we were. it was terrific. >> her mother marion volunteered at school to keep a close eye on her children.
her father, frazier robinson worked for the city's water department. in his early 30s, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. >> we watched a man who was disabled get-up-and-go to work every day. >> he was our provider. he was our champion, our hero. as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk. took him longer to get dressed in the morning. but if he was in pain, he never let on. he never stopped smiling and laughing. >> he conducted himself with so much dignity and so much purpose and was so committed to his family and so committed to his kids that he left that family with something very deep to come back to again and again. >> her father instilled in her a sense of hard work and commitment. the young michelle robinson was a good student who played piano
and liked to write short stories. at whitney young magnet school, she was class treasurer. >> did she boss you around? >> oh, yes. if we wanted to play a game, we played. >> every night they had dinner as a family and went to drive in movies often. >> they lived in a small bungalow, but there was an idyllic quality to the way she describes her family. the warmth of her parents. the stability she felt coming from them. even though they didn't have a lot of means, they had an immense belief in education and its power. >> when her brother got into princeton university, the future first lady was determined to attend the same ivy league school. >> for craig can get in, i certainly can. she apply and got in. you are laughing, but that's how she thinks.
>> at princeton she majored in sociologist with a focus on african-american studies. she went to harvard law school and in 1988, she took a job with sydney austin law firm in chicago. that's where she would meet the man who would change her life. to hear her tell it, the with the funny sounding name. >> i probably did what a lot of people do when they hear about barack obama. first i thought what kind of name is barack obama? >> she was to mentor him at the law firm, but he was late on his first day and hardly made a good impression. still, when barack obama didn't see a ring on her finger, he asked her out. >> first of all, she thought it was inappropriate to have any interoffice dating. i was only there for the summer. >> eventually she agreed to go out with him. >> i said we won't call it a
date. i will spend the day with you. >> at that point i thought i think i got something going. >> and by the end of that date, it was over. i was sold. >> she still had another test that barack obama needed to pass. >> my sister heard my dad and i talk about how you can tell a guy's true character when you take him out on the basketball court. so she asked me to take him to go play. had a gauntlet for the guy. >> when the game was over, what did you report back? >> i was like this guy is terrific. >> barack and michelle obama married in 1992. her father had died the year before. >> he never lived to see what the obamas would go on to do, but he is the family's load star. >> he is the hole in my heart.
his loss is my scar. but let me tell you something, his memory drives me forward every single day of my life. every day i work to make him proud. >> the couple settled in chicago where in 1998, michelle obama gave birth to their first daughter, malia. sasha would arrive a few years later. mrs. obama left corporate law and landed a job at the university of chicago hospitals. she would soon leave her high powered job behind. >> you believe in what this country can be. >> her husband barack obama was senator barack obama and had his sights set on the white house. >> michelle gave up a big career. there is nothing compete with this historic opportunity for
those who sense that they can be a part of history. >> she is the love of my life. the rock of our household. >> when you strip away prince and h ton and harvard, deep down inside i am a girl who grew up on the southside of chicago. >> qualities instilled in her by her parents went a long way with voters. >> every time in my life when i tried to do something, there were people around telling me why i couldn't. >> mrs. obama was a bridge to african-american women in ways like no one else who came before her. >> my question to you all is can we do this? >> early in her husband's political career, her style nicknamed her the closer. >> can we do this?
>> yes we can! >> she is the closer. she will stand up there and get right down to the tax of what's happening in the country and what we need to do and let's get on with it. >> her brother expected big things from her. just not this. >> astronaut maybe or first woman to swim around the world or something completely out of the ordinary. first lady? that would have been at the bottom of my list. >> yes there she was, election night 2008. this woman who had grown up poor and whose ancestors were slaves celebrating her husband's victory. and her future as first lady. >> i looked at him and said you are the 44th president of the united states of america. what a country we live in. >> when we saw michelle obama walk out on that stage, how did
you feel? >> she looked like she belonged there. that's how i felt. i felt like i belong here. all my ancestors belonged here. everyone that ever dreamed about her was validated in that. >> they went from a relatively normal middle class family living in a small apartment in hyde park in chicago to becoming the first family of the nation and there is no way to prepare for that or the pressures associated with that. >> the pressures indeed. coming up, michelle obama and the balancing act of being first lady and mom in chief. (vo) the holidays may be over but if you hurry, you can still get the best deals on the best network. like verizon's best smartphones
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january 20th, 2009. barack obama becomes the 44th president of the united states. >> i barack hussein obama do solemnly swear. >> aside the first lady who makes it clear she will put parenting before politics. >> i had to juggle being mom in chief and having a career for a long time. the primary focus for the first year will be making sure the kids make it through the transition. >> presidents and their wives tend to neglect their children frankly because they are so power-obsessed and so obsessed with the long road to get elected that the children often suffer. this is not the case with the obamas's children. >> she wanted her children to still be able to live their lives. i think what the obamas found out is that's not entirely possible. they are very young and starting a new school.
she wanted to just take them there in the mornings. for her to take the kids to school meant there had to be cars and security. there were traffic issues. >> instead sasha and malia just 7 and 10 went off to school with secret service agents and mrs. obama's mother. >> raising our girls in the white house with my mom -- i'm not going to do this. it's a beautiful experience. >> they didn't know any of this before they moved to the white house. they had never lived a lifelike this. what about something like a dance performance or basketball game at the girls's school. would the president and first lady be allowed to attend? >> the theme for this year's event is ready, set, what? go! >> creating a sense of normalcy, she had a talk with the staff. >> i said, you know, we are going to have to set up boundaries. they are going to be need to
able to make their beds. >> she had to start over in many ways and do it under the watchful eye of the world. that's a lot of pressure. >> even first lady redefines the role. she went for issues that were not controversial. >> we are ready, yeah. >> asthma lia and sasha settled in, mrs. obama focussed on what was best for the nation's children. >> you can lift up the grass with a pitch fork. go, go, go! >> in 2 247bd002009, she broke the white house garden located on the south lawn. the garden was designed to get kids interested in vegetables and healthy eating. >> let's hear it for fruits! yeah! did i hear a boo?
>> mrs. obama took it a step further in 2010, launching her let's move campaign to help curb childhood obesity. >> clearly we are determined to take on one of the most serious threats to their future. the epidemic of childhood obesity in america today. >> let's move! let's move, let's move! >> she encouraged kids to be more physically active. running, dancing and poking fun at herself to make her point. >> let's move will take families out of their isolation and give them the nationwide support they need. >> turn up for what? >> i don't want to close my eyes. i don't want to fall asleep. >> she danced with big bird. ellen and jimmy fallon too.
>> payou want to end the epidemic in a generation. we are aiming at children born today. you begin shaping habits and shaping the conversation that will change the habits of young people today. >> still not everyone was impressed. >> who should make decisions of what we eat. should it be the government or the parent? it should be the parent! >> sarah palin once brought sugar cookies to a fund-raiser to protest a nanny state. and the idea of nutritional nit picking. >> we are living in such a polarized partisan time. if she had said the sky is blue, they would have said no, it's red. >> we have girl scouts who are here. woo for the girl scouts!
>> the criticism didn't slow her down. in 2014, the reach higher initiative encouraged young people to go to college. in 2015, she launched let girls learn, a program to help girls around the world stay in school. >> one of these girls could have the potential to cure cancer or start a business that transforms an industry or becomes the next president or who inspires her country. if she never sets foot in a classroom, chances are she will never discover or fulfill that potential. >> she understood that if humanity is going to survive, it's going to be in the hands of women. >> that may be why she joined the effort to bring home nigerian school girls kidnapped. >> barack and i see our own daughters in these girls. we see their hopes and their
dreams. we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now. >> she would boyfriend with the kids's struggles. she said look at me. i wasn't born to a family of wealth and education and there was no map that said i would become first lady of the united states and yet i did it. >> i loved getting as. i liked being smart. i thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world. you too with these same values can control your own destiny. you too can pave the way. you are the women who will build the world as it should be. you are going to write the next chapter in history. >> if you are a parent, you are happy that michelle obama exists. you are trying to raise young women, you are happy that michelle obama exists. she is tough and strong and beautiful and said your homework is more important than your
boyfriend. thank you, michelle. >> she did it all without losing sight of those two very special girl who is call the white house home for the last eight years. >> i come here as a mom. a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the story of my world. they are the first things i think about when i wake up in the morning and the last thing i think about before i go to bed at night. >> michelle obama found her passion at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. getting there was a struggle. tinged with personal attacks and racist remarks. >> it knocked me back a bit. it made me wonder just how are people seeing me? you might remember the on stage celebration fist bump between me and my husband that was referred to as a terrorist fist jab. over the years, folks used plenty of interesting words to describe me. one said i exhibited a little
bit of upityism. another noted that i was one of my husband's cronies of color. cable news charmingly referred to me as obama's baby mama. >> how she went high when they went low. tame frizz-prone hair with smoothing care. whole blends by garnier. smoothing haircare. enriched with coconut oil & cocoa butter extracts. nurtures and protects for naturally-beautiful, shiny hair. garnier whole blends coconut oil & cocoa butter.
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running, my first reaction was no. no. not a good idea. >> michelle was reluctant to politics and concerned about the impact on the family. there was a lot of discussion about what the demands would be on her and what was expected of the children. what it would be like to have a number of the family running for president. >> despite her disinclination, official obama would turn out to be the rock behind the man many called a rock star candidate. >> i would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, michelle obama. >> when this tall black woman
entered the iowa living rooms early in the campaign, people took to her instantly. that michelle obama spark was right there. on the other hand she became criticized for the early on. she was winging it on the campaign trail. >> she threw the rule book out and said i'm going to be me. >> she was not mrs. obama. she was michelle obama. >> in 2007, she didn't mince words on the trail. saying this about her husband. >> he still has trouble putting the bread up and putting his socks in the dirty clothes. and he still doesn't do a better job than our 5-year-old daughter at mixing his bed. you have to forgive me if i am stunned by this barack obama thing. >> when people are acting like her husband was a political messiah, she knew it wasn't true.
we all talked like that and make jokes about our husbands. it is so familiar and comfortable that she can warm up a crowd easily by making those kinds of jokes. >> that are same year, mrs. obama told glamour magazine said their daughters don't want to climb into their parents bed because their dad is too snorey and stinky. >> i loved hearing her put downs and sass and saying in the morning he was not at his best. it was humanizing. >> michelle obama was lampoon and accused of being an angry black woman and targeted after comments she made in wisconsin. >> for the first time in my adult lifetime, i'm really proud of my country and not just because barack has done well, but because i think people are hungry for change. >> those kinds of moments gave
you heartburn. by the same token, it became clear that we had failed her. we threw her out there without adequate staffing. >> she was so afraid she herself her husband's candidacy. >> she didn't like the things she couldn't anticipate. >> they called her upity and there were nasty slurs. all of it hurt. >> so back on the trail, mrs. obama began choosing her words more carefully. >> i vowed that i want to be as me as i can be. >> you had to bide your time. >> we have a rabbit of characterizing people. it's easy to define michelle obama as the feisty sarcastic
andhe you welcome the caricature. >> she goes from being this dazzlingly honest and even blunt lawyer making original arguments and she edits herself back to being the mom in chief. this more familiar role. >> michelle obama's biggest flaw was to be an individual. >> feeding off fearsome had, "the new yorker" magazine published this as an angry militant sporting an afro and carrying a machine gun. she was fist bumping mr. obama wearing a turban. >> you might remember the fist bump that was referred to as a terrorist fist jab. over the years, folks have used
plenty of interesting words to describe me. one said i exhibited a little bit of upityism. another noted that i was one of my husband's cronies of color. cable news charmingly referred to me as obama's baby mama. >> she was a direct attack on a power structure that everyone has been comfortable with for a long time. so you must be militant if you were an independent black woman. you must be a radical if you went to princeton. >> not to be easily discouraged, michelle obama found a way to rise above it. >> i realized that if i wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing i could do. that was to have faith in god's plan for me. i had to ignore all of the noise
and be true to myself. and the rest would work itself out. i had to answer basic questions for myself. who am i? no, really, who am i? what do i care about? >> that attitude is what helped guide the first lady forward. >> that shock and even scared people. people became infatuated with it and in love with. they said you know what, this is cool. to have a home girl as the first lady. she is the first home girl lady. this is awesome. >> first lady and fashion icon, michelle obama's style sets trends around the world. >> michelle obama gave a lot of women permission to be who they
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because it's more than just health care. it's life care. >> from glamour to in style to voek, michelle obama graced the covers of them all. >> this is history. she is not afraid of clothes and strong color and silhouettes. >> long before she was the fashion icon, she favored j crew. >> i want to ask you about your wardrobe. 60,000 or 70,000. >> this is a j crew ensemble. >> it felt like yeah, that's what working mom from chicago
would do. every woman in her style. i think she moved away from that a little bit as the years progressed. >> it's hard, you know. i'm kind of a com boy jock at heart, but i like to look nice. >> she represented a diversity of voices from j crew and beyond. >> jason woo designed the one-shoulders chiffon dress she wore to the first inaugural ball. >> it was like it was exciting. it was real. that's our first lady. look at her. >> i will never forget the moment i slipped on this beautiful gown. i remember how just luscious i
felt as the president and i were announced on to the stage for the first of many dances. >> earlier mrs. obama walked the inauguration day parade route from cuban american designer isabel toledo. >> that was her first runway and she chose to wear a woman of color in couture. when you knew every dress from calvin klein to donna karan. she has agency. that said that i say how i present myself. this is my choiz. >> she was not going to the design houses that people knew and sort of already approved. >> jason woo and isabel toledo had come to the united states as
immigrant children. they were among a small group of little known designers. michelle obama propelled them to fashion stardom. mrs. obama also turned to more well-known designers wearing this versace dress made of rose gold to her final dinner. >> a very sexy dress and it's versace as well because of the material and the slink of it. it was referred to as a drop the mike dress. >> she had worn a tracy reece dress, but her gray nail polish made the biggest splash. >> the nail polish that launched a million manicures. >> when michelle obama got bangs, it blew up. >> first of all, i love michelle
obama. and to address the most significant event of this weekend, i love her bangs. she looks good. she always looks good. >> the amount of attention the bangs received, the president even joked that the bangs were the news story. >> her fashion sense emphasized her focus on health and fitness. this time, her. >> see see these big long brown elegant arms that look like they can hold two girls. they can hold this white house. they can hold this man. you can't deny it. seeing her arms was the ability to see that she can be both strong and graceful.
michelle's commitment to fitness was pretty powerful. she showed her body. >> how many push ups can you do? i like to do a push up. >> i don't know. i can do some. can you? >> i can do some. i wondered if you could do more than i could do. >> by the time she turned 50 in the white house, she cemented her role as an ultra fit fashion icon, inspiration to women everywhere. >> all of american women were like okay, let me step my game up. this is what it could look like. >> she exuded confidence. style watchers and fashion magazines labeled her sexy. there was something deeper behind her choices. >> she felt a responsibility to show that you do not have to be
blond and blue eyed and a size 4 to be gorgeous. she was extremely conscious of the negative stereotypes of african-american women. the narrative around what do black girls look like. >> michelle cracked that wide open. she is black and it's important because not only were brown women not considered beautiful, something healed with particularly black women who have never been the ones that were held up to be the most beautiful. never the ones that were leading women in hollywood and never thes that were on covers of magazines. >> she is the total package. she hits every check mark. she is smart and funny and real and beautiful. >> and she is bold. the woman who heldished the role of mom in chief was ready to go back on the campaign trail and
make her political voice heard. >> it was a sign of a first lady who felled confident and take a critique we had not heard. >> for would cement her legacy. >> don't let anyone tell you this country is not great. somehow we need to make it great again. because this right now is the greatest country on earth. yeah, i'm -- i couldn't help but notice you checking out my name your price tool. yeah, this bad boy gives you coverage options based on your budget. -oh -- -oh, not so fast, tadpole. you have to learn to swim first. claire, here's your name your price tool. -oh, thanks, flo. -mm-hmm. jamie, don't forget to clean the fridge when you're done. she seems nice. she seems nice. [ door closes ]
they say that it's hot... when really, it's scorching. and while some may say the desert is desolate... we prefer secluded. what is the desert? it's absolutely what you need right now. absolutely scottsdale. [ cheers and applause ] >> i want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters, that we're all created equal, each a beloved part of the great american story. and when crisis hits, we don't turn against each other. no, we listen to each other.
we lean on each other because we are always stronger together. >> michelle obama has become probably the most effective communicator on earth. when she gives a speech, it's breathtaking. she does stuff on the microphone i didn't know you could do. >> by 2016, michelle obama had stopped watching her words, and in doing so, made her voice heard. >> they seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. they tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. they act as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the
optimism and openness. >> what you see later in the presidency is her being kind of honest about her views in a big, new, ambitious way. it had the feeling of michelle obama saying in public what she said in private which i think was not always true. >> she plugged into something so deep and transformative for her, that it became transformative for millions of americans. >> her passion was her platform. she spoke openly about civil rights and issues of racism. >> no longer can we be barred from a university or hotel or arrested for sitting at the front of the bus or forced to use a separate bathroom or water fountain because of the color of our skin. >> it shows a level of courage if you're an african-american person in public life, a lot of people tell you, lay off on the black stuff. you make people uncomfortable.
don't talk about save rights. don't talk about slavery and most people say all right. she doesn't. >> i wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and i've watched my daughters, two beautiful intelligent black young women playing with their dogs on the white house lawn. >> she really tried to send a message of opportunity, not just for african-americans but people of all different backgrounds. i think she wanted to stand for the idea that, you know, any woman in this country can grow up to be first lady of the united states. >> there is no boy at this age that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education. look, if i had worried about who liked me and who thought i was cute when i was your age, i
wouldn't be married to the president of the united states. >> i had people who told me i was reaching too high, the schools i was applying to were too much for me. what you have to remember is that you are competent and capable and able to do it. >> i think michelle obama was more than hope, she was proof. we believe now, we believe it's possible. >> she became a role model for women worldwide. >> she made headlines around the world for this impassioned speech delivered after then no knee donald trump was heard on tape bragging about groping women. >> and i have to tell you that i can't stop thinking about this. it has shaken me to my core in a way that i couldn't have predicted. this wasn't just locker room banter. this is not normal.
this is not politics as usual. this is dgraceful. it is intolerable. >> she was the most profound feminist without being labeled . it is intolerable. >> she was the most profound feminist without being labeleig. it is intolerable. >> she was the most profound feminist without being labelesg. it is intolerable. >> she was the most profound feminist without being labeled that because she stood up for girls and she stood up for women when they were being bullied from the most powerful platform in the world. >> she spoke for so many women when she said i feel this in my core, this is unacceptable. she didn't mince words, wasn't politically correct, she spoke with genuine passion and outrage. >> because remember this, when
they go low, we go -- >> high. >> yes we do. >> michelle obama slayed a dragon for girls and for women. forever. and that's -- that's what you felt like your mom had come to school and gotten the bully and said you -- not my girls. the voice she gave to women and girls, that's her legacy. >> if you're really looking at michelle obama's legacy, the thing that rises to the top because it is so powerful is what it meant for everybody, also for african-americans, to see her as first lady. that she could articulate that and use it to spread a message of opportunity and empowerment for people was so powerful. >> you have a whole generation of young girls around the world. >> hola. >> who saw a beautiful strong black woman in the white house doing great and helping
everybody. and that's going to ripple out for generations. critics, haters will be long forgotten. michelle obama will never be forgotten. >> we are happy to have you. >> look at him right there. >> that's me. >> i think her legacy will be number one, that she was the first african-american first lady. that is a huge and historic legacy. ♪ but beyond that, she leaves the white house as the strongest voice for women's rights, for women's dignity, a right that goes beyond race and is fundamental to our society. >> in another way her legacy will be the dignity with which she fulfilled her obligations as first lady and the example that
she set as someone who lived in that rarified air and yet was very much a normal mom with the same concerns, looking after her kids, looking after the family and holding it together against all the pressures associated with the presidency. >> also part of her legacy, the first lady's fight to end childhood obesity. >> she did such a huge service for parents and for kids, and it had a huge impact. >> i think that more is expected from her now because she has revealed that she has this gift, that she's a natural leader, she's an au ten thennic voice and an inspiration to women all over the world. >> there is no chance that michelle obama will ever run for public office.
>> i will not run for president. no, not going to do it. >> i think that when she leaves, she'll leave with great appreciation for the opportunities that this provided but also with an eagerness to reclaim at least part of her life and her family's life that was sacrificed in service of this presidency. >> i want to walk down a street, i want to sit in a yard that is not a national park. i do want to, you know, drop in to target. >> it's hard to imagine any first lady having a bigger legacy than michelle obama. you know, she was beyonce before beyonce. she's like she's cool. >> she's unbelievable and she's going to be missed. she's going to be missed. >> michelle lavonne robinson,
girl of the south side, you made the white house a place that belongs to everybody. and a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. so you have made me proud and you have made the country proud. >> i want to close today by simply saying thank you. thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and i hope i've made you proud. and i hope i've made you proud. [ cheers and applause ] -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
just a week left for the obama family in the white house. this is "cnn tonight with don lemon." i'm don lemon. by this time next week, we'll be at the inaugural balls and donald trump will be the 45th president. but today this explosive statement from congressman john lewis speaking to nbc >> i don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president. >> you don't consider him a legitimate president? why is that? >> i think the russians participated in having this man get elected. >> that as the senate intelligence committee says it will investigate any possible links between russia and the campaigns. and more questions are raised about the president-elect's national security adviser michael flynn and his contact