Former First Lady Michelle Obama Shares Personal Stories at Connecticut Forum Event

Trinity Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Attend Moderated Conversation at the Bushnell in Hartford

Hartford, Connecticut, December 12, 2017 – “I am a product of love and support—not money, position, or networking. Girls need consistent love, support, and the belief that they are worthy. This is what it looks like when a girl is loved and nurtured.” This was just one of the personal messages shared by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who spoke about her upbringing, her outlook, and her experiences in the White House during a recent Connecticut Forum event. Trinity College students, faculty members, staff, and alumni were part of the sold-out audience of 2,800 for “A Moderated Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama” on November 16 at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Hartford. Trinity is an education partner of the Connecticut Forum, which supports open dialogue, lifelong learning, and the free and active exchange of ideas.

The conversation—which was moderated by Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem—focused on Obama’s upbringing and how it impacted her time as First Lady and beyond. Obama said, “I think I share more with people because of my flaws and the mistakes that I have made and the challenges that I face, so I am proud of that story. I can own that; I can be authentically me. It starts with being comfortable with your own voice. Those are the stories that keep me grounded.”

In addition to championing equal rights and the empowerment of women, Obama said that the older generation needs to support the next generation of leaders. “We don’t need just one Michelle and Barack, but thousands,” she said. “By shifting the spotlight on young leaders so they are trained and knowledgeable, people will allow them to be the congressmen, mayors, and presidents around the world.” Obama said that there are many future leaders now in high school and college who are eager to take part in leadership roles who need access to networks and funds.  

“During my 10-year journey, including the campaign, I have not had a lot of time to reflect on my time. However, I have learned to become more patient and optimistic. My time in the White House allowed us—me, my husband, and my kids—to see the country up close and personal,” she said. Obama also shared how she learned to prioritize family time while in the White House: “I filled time up on the calendar with myself and my kids’ obligations first, and then filled in the rest of my time with everything else. This then made it easier to say ‘no,’ which women have a tough time saying.” Because Obama learned to prioritize what mattered most to her, she was able to balance her time—a lesson she said is important for every woman.  

​The crowd shows its appreciation for Michelle Obama.
Photo by Nick Caito, courtesy of The Connecticut Forum.
Emily Claytor ’18, president of Trinity’s Student Government Association (SGA), who attended the event, said that the idea of balance stood out. “This is a question that I think most girls and women struggle with: How can you figure out how to have a family and a job? I agreed when she said that balance is a practiced art, but in our society balance is hardly ever talked about,” Claytor said. “Michelle is an example of how to live a balanced life. Not only is she a loving and active mother, but she has an incredibly professional career.”

Following the forum, members of Trinity’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) met for a lively conversation about what they heard from Obama. Alumnae who gathered at a local restaurant shared highlights of Obama’s conversation that they enjoyed the most, and applied certain issues Obama covered in her talk to improving Trinity’s campus and beyond. WLC was founded in 2010 by alumnae trustees of the college and seek to engage Trinity women by encouraging them to help shape the college’s future and be responsive to the needs of its female undergraduates.

One of the WLC members, Jacqueline Moller M’05, received her master’s degree at Trinity in public policy and law and has worked in finance for many years. She said, “It’s nice having a group to go and talk to in an intimate setting about topics relevant to female students and alumnae. There has been a lot of positive progression for women in the workplace, but we are not quite there. We can support the empowerment of women in a positive way, help them to be bold, and encourage them to keep the momentum going.”

Written by Dana Martin ’18