If you miss true leadership, we have some truly excellent news. Michelle Obama just debuted The Michelle Obama Podcast. Her first VIP guest? None other than President Barack Obama for a cozy, intimate conversation. That’s right, this year might be unrelentingly painful, but mom and dad are here to help us look on the bright side and think of “We” instead of “Me” (so maybe send this to an anti-masker).
For the premiere episode of the podcast, the Obamas discuss Barack’s identity as an eternal “Yes We Can Man,” supporting and raising idealistic youths, and the profound importance of community. ICYMI, both Obamas have significant experience as community organizers, and Michelle grew up on the South Side of Chicago where her community really raised up one another. It’s part of why, in fact, she was motivated to leave her high power, high paying job as a lawyer.
“I never felt further from that neighborhood than when I was sitting in that office working on briefs and cases that had nothing to do with anything that helped a broader group of people outside of myself,” says the former first lady. “And it felt lonely. And I say this to young people, ‘why did I leave corporate law and go into community service?’—the truth is it was selfish. I was happier. When I left that firm and started working in the city, getting out into the broader community of Chicago and seeing the interconnectedness of these neighborhoods by being alive in the dirt and the grit of helping people. And I never looked back.”
As Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear points out, the tenets of hope, optimism, idealism, and thinking in a community-based, we-oriented manner is “critical for both the individual and society.”
“Whether in the context of today’s disconcerting world or overall personal and interpersonal well-being, a hopeful, positive, community-focused mindset serves us as individuals and as a society,” says Dr. Manly. “In truth, there are only downsides to having a negative, self-oriented attitude. On the other hand, research continues to show that there are incredible upsides to having a positive, can-do attitude that is oriented toward helping one’s community—and world—as a whole. And, truly, both attitudes use the same amount of energy.”
Seriously, being an optimist (and being in a relationship with one) not only helps you build up personal resiliency in tough times. When you’re mentally strong, you’re in a better place to help others. When you exhibit prosocial behavior, you actually make yourself feel better while problem-solving and improving the lives of others. And yes, when you immerse yourself in a community (in a socially distant way, currently), everyone feels less alone.
We all benefits from their ability to advocate and make sure the resources are coming in. “That whole process of lifting all boats comes about from this network of relationships in a community,” says Barack Obama. “And the good news is, that when you look at all these young people who’ve been out there protesting in the wake of the George Floyd murder, that’s their instinct. It’s not uniform, and it could still go both ways in this country just like it’s teetering one way or the other in countries all around the world. This is not unique to the United States, it’s we just got our own version of it.”
If you need a little bit of comfort and a lot of bit of inspiration, tune into the Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify now, or whenever someone you need to remember we’re not alone.