Ten takeaways from Michelle Obama’s appearance in Toronto
Former first lady Michelle Obama made an appearance at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre on Tuesday afternoon, where she was greeted with a standing ovation from a crowd of about 3,000. She was there to discuss gender equality, politics and economics on stage with Rhiannon Traill, the president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada.
The sold-out event, Obama’s first visit to Canada since leaving the White House, wasn’t cheap to attend: tickets were priced between $250 and $1,500. (For each one sold, a free one was given to someone between the ages of 14 and 24.) Over the course of the hour-long discussion, Obama spoke on a range of topics, including education, social media and eating pizza with Jesus. Here are some takeaways.
Michelle Obama fans hate waiting
RBC’s chief administrative officer, Jennifer Tory (she’s the mayor’s sister), threw the audience for a loop when she was wrapping up her introduction of the former First Lady. Just when it would have been appropriate for Obama to walk onto the stage, Tory said, “Let’s watch a short video reflection.” The crowd let out a loud, collective sigh of disappointment.
Even in a room with Michelle Obama, Jagmeet Singh attracts attention
As guests were filtering into the arena and searching for their seats, the newly minted NDP leader was met by a line of fans—at least 30 deep—at the back of the room, who patiently waited to get a photo with him.
Girls (and boys) need to be their own education advocates
When asked how schools can serve people with differing learning styles, Obama said, “We’re not putting our best minds to use on solving that. And that particularly affects girls, because girls learn differently from boys. Often, our method of teaching scares girls away from STEM courses. I was one of those girls. That’s why I’m a lawyer. I wasn’t going to take a lab and do math.”
“When you don’t understand something, raise your hand,” she said. “You should assume that if you don’t understand it, it means they need to explain it more.”
She gets star-struck
Obama admitted that she touched Queen Elizabeth during their first meeting, even though she knew doing so is technically against the rules. “She touched me first!” Obama said. “I thought it was the nice thing to do.”
She never forgot her childhood community
Obama reminisced about her first job out of law school. She was working at a corporate law firm, had her own secretary, drove a Saab with a sunroof, and made more money than both of her parents combined. She recalled looking out her office window one day, from the 47th floor, and seeing her old neighbourhood. “I could see the south side of Chicago and it felt so far away. I thought, ‘I can see the place that brought me here, and I can’t just leave it there.’”
She knows exactly what she’d feed Jesus
If Obama could host a dinner party and have any person at her table, dead or alive, who would it be? “Jesus Christ,” she replied to laughter from the crowd. “And I’d probably serve him pizza. I would think Jesus has access to a lot of great food, but pizza is universal.”
Social media is kind of the worst
Obama cautioned the youth in the room about their use of social media. “If you’re going to use this medium, then you have to really be mature and thoughtful,” she said. “It’s being handed to you like your frontal lobes have closed, and they haven’t.”
Her social media motto? Don’t be like Trump
“Never do I ever post anything from my bed at night,” Obama said. “Nor do I wake up and say, ‘I know what I think! Let me share this with the world.’ Effective communication is about thought. It takes time to think through what you really want to say. Then you need to edit it and spellcheck it. You know, maybe throw some punctuation in there so people really understand what you mean.”
She thinks we’re nice
Asked to describe Canadians in three words, Obama quickly replied: “Oh, that’s easy. Kind, neighbourly and open-minded.”
She’s seriously not running for president
Obama made it clear that she has zero plans to run for office in 2020. “So many people come to me saying ‘Michelle, we want you to run for President,’” she said, as the crowd erupted into cheers. “Oh, shut up,” she joked, with an eye roll. “One person can’t make the change,” she continued. “And that’s a good thing, that no one person can fix all this. That means that no one person can break all this, either.”