Long lines wrapped around the Capital One Arena on Saturday, Nov. 17, as throngs of anxious fans — mostly women — stood outside in the cold after spending as much as $3,000 for a highly-anticipated evening with former first lady Michelle Obama.
For the multitude of vendors, the captive audience provided the perfect opportunity for them to sell an array of Michelle Obama memorabilia including T-shirts announcing, “I Was Here.” They carried mobile displays of buttons, calendars, folding fans and just about anything that Michelle Obama’s image would fit on, and finally for “any amount you can spare!” some yelled.
It turned out to be the better deal compared to the higher priced items sold inside including a $15 keychain, a $35 candle and of course Obama’s recently-released memoir “Becoming,” but the lines never waned.
The 20,000-seat arena was sold out to Michelle Obama’s adoring fans who came prepared to dive deeper into her personal life of trials and triumphs about which she shares in her memoir. The stories she tells in three parts, Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More, are very personal, candid and instructive, as was the conversation she had on stage with her friend and mentor Valerie Jarrett, who served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
The nearly 45-minute delay only proved to increase the anticipation of the crowd who burst into applause when Jarrett came on stage. She shared the history of her relationship with Michelle Obama, who she recruited from a prestigious law firm to work for her for the City of Chicago. The crowd jumped to their feet when Obama came on stage fashionable as always.
She waved to the audience before sitting down for an hourlong girl-talk about growing up poor on the South Side of Chicago with her mother, brother and father where she was instilled with the fortitude and determination that started her on her way.
“The reason I wrote this book is because what really connects us are the stories we remember, the values we share, the life you live and the memories,” she said. “If you can share it with people, it’s what connects us.”
Dating, marriage, childbirth, miscarriage, parenting and the challenges of womanhood that caused her to question always, “Am I good enough,” enveloped the early years of her life before and after she married Barack Obama. The admiration she acquired for him on their first date has lasted, and the deep love they share and mutual pride they have for their respective accomplishments have brought them through tough times and unfathomable experiences which she shared on stage in a natural and down-to-earth way.
As fans filed out of the arena, taking selfies and still standing again in long lines to buy more merchandise, many described the evening as “inspirational” and “once in a lifetime.” For some, the icing on the cake was the surprise visit by none other than Michelle’s husband Barack, who joined his wife and Jarrett on stage and presented Michelle with a dozen fuchsia roses.