The Washington Post
Michelle Obama recalls her ‘uncontrollable sobbing’ after Trump inauguration
Laughter erupted inside the New York studio after “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon asked Michelle Obama what was running through her mind as she waved goodbye on Inauguration Day in 2017.
“Bye, Felicia,” Obama cheekily replied of the moment that marked the end of her family’s time at the White House and the beginning of the Trump administration.
That was in December 2018, when Obama was promoting her first book, “Becoming.” Now, four years and another book later, the former first lady is offering a more serious assessment of the emotions she felt on Jan. 20, 2017, the day Donald Trump became president.
When her family took off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, she began to cry, Obama says in a clip of “Michelle Obama: The Light Podcast,” which premiered Tuesday.
“I cried for 30 minutes straight — uncontrollable sobbing — because that’s how much we were holding it together for eight years,” Obama says in the clip shared by People.
The podcast is a follow-up to Obama’s second book, “The Light
We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times,” and features conversations the former first lady had with Gayle King, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and others during the six-city American tour she embarked on last year while promoting the book. The series — which can be streamed on Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service — touches on themes including relationships, race and gender. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The first episode, titled “Kids Just Want Our Gladness,” is taken from Obama’s conversation with NBC “Today” host Hoda Kotb and centers on leaving the White House and the memories her family built there.
“We were leaving the home we had been in for eight years, the only home our kids really knew,” Obama says of her daughters, Malia and Sasha. “They remembered Chicago, but they had spent more time in the White House than anywhere, so we were saying goodbye to the staff and all the people who helped to raise them.”
Obama has said before that the hours leading up to the inauguration were a sort of chaos that is not unknown to most parents. The night before their move, her daughters asked for a final sleepover with their friends. So the following morning, Obama was getting ready while seeing off her daughters’ friends, saying goodbyes to employees, packing and preparing for tea with the incoming first family.
When she arrived at Trump’s inauguration, she said, she was disappointed that the ceremony did not reflect “the broader sense of America.”
“To sit on that stage and watch the opposite of what we represented on display — there was no diversity, there was no color on that stage. … But you had to hold it together like you do for eight years,” she explained, adding that it led to the troubled expression seen in the photos taken of her that day.
While detailing the moments that led up to her final wave at Joint Base Andrews, Obama weighed in on a dispute from the early days of the Trump administration: the inauguration crowd size.
“You walk through the Capitol, you wave goodbye, you get on Marine One, and you take your last flight flying over the Capitol, where there weren’t that many people there — we saw it, by the way,” Obama said.
The next day, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said during his first media briefing that the crowd on that frosty morning was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”
It was a false claim that was then repeated by Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump adviser, who said Spicer simply “gave alternative facts” about the crowd.