‘We were afraid to hope’: Michelle Obama opens up to Robin Roberts about new memoir

"We were afraid to hope because it's hard to believe that the country that oppressed you could one day be led by you, you know," she told Roberts Sunday night in a wide-ranging interview.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Former first lady Michelle Obama’s much-talked about interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts aired Sunday and she admitted that when her husband was first listed as a 2008 presidential hopeful, she—like so many others—had the same initial response.

“I think I did what a lot of black folks were doing’,” she told Roberts. “We were afraid to hope because it’s hard to believe that the country that oppressed you could one day be led by you, you know?”

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“I mean, my grandparents, you know, lived through segregation,” she continued. “My grandfather, his grandfather was a slave, you know? So this, these memories were real. And they didn’t think the country was ready. And, and so my attitude was a reflection of that skepticism.”

In the wide-ranging interview that is promoting the former FLOTUS’ new memoir, Becoming, Obama also talked about how she dealt with the numerous lies and insults hurled at her on the campaign trail and throughout her husband’s presidency.

“I write about those, you know, those nasty times where people, you know, called me Barack’s ‘baby mama,’ you know” she says. “Accused me of not loving my country. Told me I was angry.” she said.

“And, I was, like, ‘This isn’t me. Wait, wait, people. This isn’t who I am,'” she added.  “So much of this country lives in isolation and we just don’t know each other. … There were people who didn’t know what a Black woman was and sounded like. And, so I knew that was gonna be a challenge, that I’d have to earn my grace—and I experienced that on the campaign trail. I wasn’t gonna allow myself to feel victimized from it because there was no time to hurt in that role.”

She talked about how she and Barack once had to attend marriage counseling earlier in their marriage: “What I learned about myself was that my happiness was up to me. And I started working out more. I started asking for help, not just from him, but from other people. I stopped feeling guilty. I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there’s something wrong with them.

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A phenomenal marriage

“I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other, we work on our marriage,” she added. “And we get help with our marriage when we need it.”

In the interview, Obama also talks about conceiving her two daughters, Sasha and Malia, through IVF after previously miscarrying. She felt that she would be doing women a disservice by not talking about this.

“I felt lost and alone,” she said. “And I feel– I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.

“I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work and how they don’t work,” she added.

Donald and Melania Trump 

She also acknowledged that she would never forgive Donald and Melania Trump for peddling the racist “birther” campaign against her husband.

“Its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed,” she said. “But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks.”

When asked if she had any conversations with Melania since Trump took office, a tradition that most former First Ladies have kept going for years, she very quickly said “No.”

During the special, they visited Michelle’s high school Alma Mater, Whitney Young High School. She surprised a dance class and told a story of how a former guidance counselor told her that she was not good enough to get into Princeton.

Defying expectations 

“She told me I wasn’t Princeton material,” she said. “Can you imagine that?”

Whitney Young Principal, Dr. Joyce Kenner quickly chimed in: “She doesn’t work here anymore.”

Obama, ever classy, says that she used the moment as inspiration to work even harder.

“Instead of walking away going, ‘Yeah, you’re right, maybe she’s right,’ I would always think, ‘I’ll show you,’” she said. “I’m gonna work hard and I’m gonna make sure that people know that I am substantive and smart and kind and patriotic and hard working.”

Becoming is scheduled to be released Tuesday. Oprah will kickoff sales with a special event at Chicago’s United Center.

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