First Lady Michelle Obama’s days in the White House are numbered, and she’s savoring every last moment as she prepares to say goodbye.
“Looking out on the South Lawn and the Washington Monument and it had just rained and the grass was really green and everything popped a little bit more,” she told writer Jonathan Van Meter for Vogue’s December cover story. “It’s soooo beautiful. And for that moment I thought, I’m going to miss waking up to this, having access to this anytime I want.”
Yet she’s ready for the next step, she said.
“On the flip side . . . it’s time. I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It’s enough. Because it’s important to have one foot in reality when you have access to this kind of power. The nature of living in the White House is isolating. And I think Barack and I—because we’re kind of stubborn—we’ve maintained some normalcy, mostly because of the age of our kids. I go out to dinner with my girlfriends; I go to Sasha’s games; Barack has coached a little basketball with Sasha’s team. But at the same time, when you can’t walk into CVS?”
And while she admits that she doesn’t know what that step will be, she vows to continue fighting on behalf of the issues she cares about.
“I will always be engaged in some way in public service and public life,” she said. “I’ve always felt very alive using my gifts and talents to help other people. I sleep better at night. I’m happier.”
Van Meter spent a month by the first lady’s side, accompanying her to various engagements and speaking to her staffers.
He shows just how revolutionary her tenure has been. She took a “job with no salary, a platform with no power” and loaded it with significance and purpose, he wrote.
“Everything we do is by choice,” she said. “I could have spent eight years doing anything, and at some level, it would have been fine. I could have focused on flowers. I could have focused on decor. I could have focused on entertainment. Because any First Lady, rightfully, gets to define her role. There’s no legislative authority; you’re not elected. And that’s a wonderful gift of freedom.”
She is the perfect mix of substance and insouciance, Van Meter argued.
He highlights her accomplishments in the last eight years ― like Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn, two education initiatives ― as well as her impeccable style and penchant for SoulCycle and carpool karaoke with late-night host James Corden.
Particularly remarkable has been her choice to spend so much time learning from young people.
“It makes us want to live right and do right and be right—Every. Single. Day—so that we don’t ever disappoint these kids and they have something to hold on to, and so that they know—as I say all the time—I can do this. You can do this,” she said.