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Michelle Obama at Tacoma Dome asks largest crowd of tour ‘who are you becoming?’

Michelle Obama makes appearances in Tacoma

Former First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of a local book club at the Tacoma Public Library on Sunday before her event at the Tacoma Dome that night.
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Former First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of a local book club at the Tacoma Public Library on Sunday before her event at the Tacoma Dome that night.

Michelle Obama brought a message of hope, strength, humility and authenticity to Tacoma on Sunday, and she wanted to know one thing: “Who are you becoming?”

The former first lady drew more than 18,000 people to the Tacoma Dome, the largest turnout so far on her international book tour.

With the booming pop music, high-beam lights and Jimmy Kimmel as host and interviewer, the event felt more upbeat than a typical book event.

Ciara, Eddie Vedder, Sue Bird, the wife of a Green Beret and a Girl Scout made appearances to talk about what they’re becoming, and a biographical video on Obama had some in the crowd sniffling before the show got underway.

Obama and Kimmel chatted about how life has changed for the Obamas since they left the White House, her childhood growing up on the south side of Chicago, how she learned to chase joy rather than status and the tumultuous state of America.

“We have to be easier on ourselves, and we have to be brave enough to find our story — and own it,” she said. “We have to practice everyday who we want to be.”

Obama told stories after her beloved father, who treated her as an equal with her older brother and taught them together how to throw a baseball and a punch. About her cranky grandfather, whom she stood up to but also how she understood the pain and unfairness in his life. About being treated with love and respect by the men in her young life, so she grew up believing that her voice was valued.

She talked about moving from a working-class household to obtaining degrees from Harvard and Princeton, so she could collect a respectable job and nice car.

“I wasn’t looking for joy — I was checking boxes,” Obama said. “Nobody told me that’s not what life is about … I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do.”

That’s when she met Barack Obama, a law firm mentee who showed up on his first day late, wet from a rainstorm and full of swagger.

The couple soon decided to shun the cushy, high-paying jobs and dedicate their lives to giving back.

While the Obamas spent eight years in the White House, the former first lady became an advocate for healthy eating and empowering girls.

She knew her experience would be different as the first African-American first lady and strove to go high when their opponents went low.

“For eight years, I don’t think I took a full breath because everything mattered,” Obama said. “We couldn’t slip up.”

When the Obamas left the White House after President Trump was inaugurated, she said she sat on the plane and sobbed for a half hour because it was the first real release in years.

She encouraged people to lead by hope, not fear. To not be afraid of each other. To remember that every person has a story worth sharing. That change starts with the individual, and we can create a better social culture for the next generation.

“Start sharing your story and be open to hearing others,” Obama said. “We can’t just show up when it’s hard. We are the answer.

“We have to be the world that we want them to live in.”

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