InStyle Magazine
Updated November 02, 2017
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On Wednesday, Michelle Obama attended the Obama Foundation summit in Chicago and spoke with poet and close friend Elizabeth Alexander about things that are most important to her. Among them: family and the arts.

“Art is the first language we speak, truly,” she told the audience during the on-stage discussion. “Every child, before they talk, they’re given some paper, a pencil, some crayons … It’s life that yanks that instinct from them. We’re now living in public school systems where art, music, P.E.—the things that bring life and joy are the first things that are cut. It’s often the hook that gets kids to then understand that math is important, it’s the thing that gets them to school to do reading. We are trying to remind this country, this world, that arts are not a luxury. It’s the thing that unites us.”

When it comes to raising women to be strong and confident in their own voice, the former First Lady has pointers.

That being said, Obama also stated the importance of being careful with the voice you have, and not abusing the power that comes with it. “When you have a voice, you can’t just use it any old way,” she said. “You don’t just say what’s on your mind—you don’t tweet every thought. Most of your first initial thoughts are not worthy of the light of day. I’m not talking about anybody in particular—I’m talking about us all,” she clarified, inciting an eruption of laughter from the audience. “Tweeting and social media—that is a powerful weapon that we just hand over to little kids. You need to think, and spell it right, and have good grammar, too.”

Amen, Mrs. Obama.

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Between giving empowering speeches and serving as a role model to both her two daughters and women and men across the world, Michelle says it’s essential to find some time for herself. “When you have children, you have to be fiercely organized to get anything done. I learned that if I don’t put myself up on the priority list, somehow my kids will eventually get knocked down on that list, “ she explained.

Part of that essential self-care involves logging some time with her gal pals said Michelle, who wore a multicolored plaid dress for the occasion.

“I love my husband and he is my rock, but my girlfriends are my sanity. And when you live eight years in the White House, and you can’t even open a window, you can’t walk out on your balcony without notifying three people, your walk outside is you walk around the same circle in the south lawn over and over again, because the thought of you leaving those gates requires 50 people’s attention, and work and convenience. … When you live like that for eight years, you need your girlfriends. And nothing is spontaneous. All our spontaneity was basically taken away from us. I even do this now, like, ‘Can I leave?’ I don’t leave until some 30-year-old tells me ‘Ma’am, you can leave now.’ I had to plan my time with my GFs that kept me grounded and brought me laughter.”

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As for parenting, Michelle has a directive straight from her mother: raise your children to be “independent, well-meaning, kind, compassionate people.”

Those are some powerful words.