Michelle Obama
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
Chapter 2

The chapter starts with the author describing her early education at Bryn Mawr Elementary School in late 1969. Obama states that she was at an advantage due to her knowing how to read basic words before joining elementary school. Since a young age, Obama has been an achiever and loathed being labeled as incapable. This is evidenced by her obsession over the “dime-sized gold-foil stars that Mrs. Burroughs” awarded her bright students such as Chiaka and Teddy (Obama 30). To prove she was not a failure, she demanded a reading test to be repeated, in which she had failed to read the word “white” (Obama, 30). Attaining the dime-sized gold-foil trophy was a great achievement to Michelle Obama, and she walked with her head held high that afternoon.

At home, Obama talks about having a normal family comprised of intrigues and drama. Unlike her outgoing brother Craig, Michelle was an indoor person and liked playing with her dolls. However, the author states that from her bedroom window she “could observe most of the real-world happenings” (Obama, 31), also reinforcing that her family lived on the poorer side of Chicago neighborhood spectrum.

The effects of Caucasian migration to the suburbs were evident and children like Michelle felt the change, especially at school. Her second-grade classroom was chaotic, attributed to the fact that the teacher was not only incompetent but also disliked the children (Obama 31). In the teacher’s eyes, the children were bad and thus failed to teach them anything. Michelle’s love of learning led to her complaining to her mother, which eventually led to high performing pupils including herself. being pulled out of the class and after a series of tests reinstalled permanently to third-grade (Obama 32).

Like any other parents, Michelle states that her parents coped with what they had and strived to provide their kids with the best life they could afford. Her parents had hopes that both Michelle and Craig would realize the family’s unattained aspirations. Michelle’s father would drive Michelle and Craig to Pill Hill as an aspirational exercise, showing them the benefits that came with education (Obama 34). Michelle states that her father operated from “a practical place, sensing that resources were limited” (Obama 34) and thus, the family lived within humble means.  

The population in the South Side of Chicago started declining, with people leaving the community entirely, and also transferring their children from Bryn Mawr Elementary to Catholic school (Obama 35). Obama’s mother suffered a blow when her friend, Velma Steward, decided to relocate to Park Forest. Michelle describes that an invite to the Stewarts neighborhood revealed the racial discrimination between whites and blacks. Michelle states that during the visit, someone intentionally scratched her dad’s beloved Buick marking a “thin ugly gulch that ran across the door and toward the tail of the car” (Obama 36). This was simply because they were black people in a white neighborhood.


In this chapter, Obama appears to describe the impact of the ‘white migration’ from the south side of Chicago, racial discrimination as well as further disparities. Like most, Michelle’s parents lived within their means thereby, living a humble but happy life. Through her experience as a young girl brought up in an era where color or racial discrimination was on a high level, Michelle informs the readers that young kids know when they are undervalued. She brings into light the impact of racial discrimination, particularly on children since they end up losing out on many opportunities due to the color of their skin. The movement of people to the suburbs left financially unstable families, such as hers, at the mercy of incompetent teachers who disliked children and labeled them as “bad kids.” In this chapter, Michelle shows the complexity of being a black person by describing the prejudice directed to them at Park Forest. She not only describes the theme of racial discrimination but also shows that positivity is vital in overcoming such challenges. In spite of being black and poor, Michelle shows that a parent plays a vital role in shaping their child’s life. Obama's parents did not focus on discrimination but focused their love and energy into their kids who they hoped would achieve the family's lofty aspirations. The visit to Pill Hills, a neighborhood to the south, comprising a large number of African American doctors served as an inspirational drive, aimed at encouraging Michelle and Craig to pursue education and secure a better future for themselves.

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