The Obamas: Moving Out of the White House

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Becoming" by Michelle Obama. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Where did the Obama family go after they moved out of the White House? Are they happy to be out or do they miss it?

Moving out of the White House was difficult for the Obama family, especially since Malia and Sasha basically grew up there. But it was bittersweet because moving out of the White House also meant regaining their freedom.

Continue on to learn how the Obamas dealt with moving out of the White House.

The Obamas Leave the White House 

Moving out of the White House was highly emotional for the Obamas. Michelle felt grateful to the many staff members who were like family to her. Saying goodbye was especially hard for Malia and Sasha, who had grown up with these people around them. The permanent White House staff—butlers, ushers, florists, chefs, housekeepers—would now go on to serve the next President, while the people who came in with the Obamas would move on to new jobs elsewhere. 

At a goodbye ceremony before the Inauguration, the staff presented the family with two flags: one from Barack’s first day and one from his last day as President of the United States.

Michelle Regains Her Freedom

From the time she was a small child, Michelle Obama’s parents taught her the importance of speaking up and telling her own story in her authentic voice—reconciling her past, present, and future and feeling proud of it all. As first lady of the United States, Michelle passed on this advice to thousands of young people, and she hopes that by sharing her own life’s narrative, she can inspire others. 

As her memoir begins, Michelle has recently moved out of the White House after eight years as first lady from January 2009 to January 2017. Along with her husband, former President Barack Obama, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, she has moved into a suburban home not far from the White House. For the first time in many years, Michelle finds herself alone with her thoughts in a quiet house. 

Each member of the Obama family is transitioning into a new stage of their lives. Barack is exploring career opportunities for his post-Presidential years. The Obama children are entering adulthood—Malia, the older daughter, is taking a gap year before starting college at Harvard University, and Sasha will finish high school in another two years. Michelle is free from the constraints of her highly public life as first lady. Simultaneously, her duties and responsibilities as a mother have diminished.    

Michelle describes the simple pleasures she can now enjoy, which she didn’t have while living in the White House: She can go outside and play in the yard with her dogs without the Secret Service asking where she is going. She can open her bedroom windows and let in fresh air whenever she pleases. She can make her own cheese toast without the kitchen staff rushing in to help.  

Even though a cadre of Secret Service agents is holed up in the Obamas’ garage command post—and agents will accompany the family for the rest of their lives—Michelle cherishes her newfound freedom and quiet time. This is her opportunity to reflect and write her life story.  

Michelle’s New Life Beyond the White House 

At Becoming’s conclusion, Michelle has entered a new chapter of her life away from the White House. She’s ready to find a new identity now that she has much less responsibility and more time to reflect. As she ponders who she is now and what her next steps will be, she realizes that she is still “becoming,” that there is no end point to evolving as a human being. 

People often ask Michelle about running for office, but she has no political aspirations. She was never a fan of politics, and after living through Barack’s two years as U.S. Senator and eight years as President, she is even less of a fan. She is unhappy with Donald Trump’s actions in his first year as President—she gets angry watching the news and she sometimes loses sleep over current events­—but she holds fast to hope for the future of America. 

Becoming Means Evolving 

Michelle writes that “becoming” requires patience and belief in the future. It requires understanding that there is always more work to be done. And most of all, it requires optimism—”a form of faith, an antidote to fear,” she writes. 

Although America is far from perfect, she loves her country for all the optimism it offers. Her time in the White House let her look deeply at American’s contradictions and injustices, but it also made her privy to its idealism and resilience. 

The Obamas: Moving Out of the White House

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Michelle Obama's "Becoming" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Becoming summary:

  • How Michelle Obama went from the South Side of Chicago to the White House
  • Why much of her success came from her being determined from a young age
  • How Michelle Obama continues to push herself and discover new opportunities

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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