October 26th, 2010
06:05 PM ET
12 years ago

First lady gets candid out West

Los Angeles, Calif. (CNN) - A surprisingly candid first lady Michelle Obama discussed her initial fears about going out on the campaign trail alone to promote her husband's 2008 presidential bid in remarks before a women's conference in Long Beach Tuesday.

"I was scared. I was worried that I'd say that wrong thing. I was nervous that someone might ask a question that I didn't know the answer to. I have a tendency to do that thing that a lot of women do, where you get 99 things right, but spend all your time beating yourself up about the one thing you messed up."

Mrs. Obama is seemingly putting aside her fears to try to save congressional Democrats from losing their majority. She is engaged in a three-day West Coast campaign swing to raise money for the Democratic party, and implore female voters to come back into the fold, to vote for the Democrats in trouble who are supporting her husband's agenda.

Today she spoke at the annual Women's Conference in Long Beach, California hosted by California's outgoing First Lady Maria Shriver. The gathering of 14,000 women provided her with the kind of friendly audience receptive to Mrs. Obama's confessions.

The audience applauded when the Mrs. Obama confided "it took me a while to get out of my own head to set aside my own fears and self interest and to focus on all the good that I believed a man like my husband could do as President."

The first lady admitted, when she first took on a public role, she wanted to stay in her comfort zone, to take on the issues that were familiar.

"I decided that I would focus on what I knew. And as a working mom, I thought I knew a thing or two about the challenge of balancing a full-time job with the round-the-clock needs of my family juggling the recitals and conference calls, making those endless to-do lists that I never got through, and often lost feeling like I was falling short both at work and at home," Mrs. Obama said.

But the first lady confided that she had much to learn about the additional pressures on military spouses.

When Mrs. Obama initially went out on the road she said "I did my homework. I read my briefing books from cover to cover. I thought about all the issues that might come up. I thought through the answers to every question I could imagine. And for the most part, I was prepared. For the most part, in the stories of the women I met, I recognized my own story. But there was one group of women whose stories were new to me – and whose questions I often didn't have answers to...They were military spouses – mainly women but a few good men as well – whose spouses were serving our country, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe. And let me tell you, their stories took my breath away."

The first lady credited those military spouses and the vice president's wife, Jill Biden, for getting her up to speed. During the campaign in 2008, Biden saw her son Beau off to serve in the Iraq war.

Mrs. Obama implored the women in the audience Tuesday to do their part to help military spouses thrive, and offered a self-effacing confession.

"While most of us don't experience these struggles to the same degree as military spouses, that feeling of being pulled in all directions, that nagging sense that you're falling short both at work and at home, that tendency to worry about, and care for, everyone but yourself – these things are universal."

Filed under: 2010 • Michelle Obama
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Rev. P. T.

    God has blessed the US with a First Lady such as this. Thank you, God.

    October 26, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  2. LacrosseMom(real one)

    Wonderful, Mrs Obama! After EIGHT years of Republican rule in California, they will not vote for a Republican again.

    October 26, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  3. u2canfail

    Michele does research, before speaking on a topic, sure wish Palin did.

    October 26, 2010 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  4. Sherri W.W.

    The 1st Lady is a beautiful and warm person,and we dont see near enough of her.But,at the same time,she and the President are engaged in raising their family and in traditional family values.That says a LOT of good things about BOTH of them!

    October 26, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  5. George of the jungle

    a classy first lady who knows how to talk to people. Vote the repos out in November

    October 26, 2010 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  6. shannon

    don't worry Michelle, you are a role model to millons, and your class and intelligence, shines. Thank goodness young women have you to look up to, what if their only role models were people like Christine O'Donnell or Sarah Palin, they symbolize everything a woman shouldn't be. They have set the women's movenment back decades.

    October 26, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  7. Larry

    i must say that you have did us proud. unlike others who cant answer question or give us any type of plan. but yet still pack in the crowds and cash in on book advances. must be nice

    October 26, 2010 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |