Updated: Apr 9, 2021
I recently listened to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s inaugural podcast on Spotify. Her first guest was the one-and-only, our 44th president, Barack Obama. What a spectacularly candid conversation! It was like listening to two friends just shooting the breeze over the airwaves. The couple shared stories of their upbringings, careers, and their family in their hour-long conversation. The former First Lady recounted about her father’s insistence about not moving her family to the suburbs, and her mother having the privilege of being a stay-at-home PTA mom. President Obama reminisced about living with his grandparents in a modest monolithic 96-unit building in Honolulu where friends would often spend the night and be treated as members of his family. An overarching theme of Michelle Obama’s premier into podcast-dom was community. Our society appears to have strayed away from the idea of “we” to “me” in hopes of attaining the “stairs and a station wagon”, an archetype of Mrs. Obama’s American Dream that she fondly muses over with her husband.
What I learned from their individual perspectives is that by reclaiming the fundamental value of community, their lives were enriched when they became more embedded in their communities through their work. When Michelle left her associate’s position at Sidley Austin and her view from the 47th floor overlooking Lake Michigan to serve as Founding Executive Director of Public Allies Chicago in 1993, she recalls being happier exploring parts of Chicago she’d never visited. Barack remembers his first month organizing in Chicago as just “talking to people” and getting to know them. Their heart-warming conversation (they are #couplegoals!) reinvigorated me to get out into the community in my new home of Philadelphia, PA to leave a legacy of unity, compassionate leadership and serving others.
Recently, I signed up to be a Volunteer Coach at The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia whose mission is positive youth development through learning the fundamentals of golf. Young people learn to build strong character through the nine core values of Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy, and Judgment which are reinforced throughout the program. As an adult mentor and coach, I enjoy helping students build good character by managing their emotions, finding their voice, and growing socially and academically. Since its founding in 1997, the First Tee has more than 3,900 coaches that include PGA and LPGA professionals and volunteers who donate their time because they believe strongly in the mission.
Today, I encourage you to get out into your community and discover life outside of your bubbles, just as Michelle and Barack did in their early careers. The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said that “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve...You only need a heart full of grace.”, and I hope your lives are enriched by gratuitously lending yourselves to a greater cause because we are the change we've been waiting for.