Is Michelle Obama Running for Office? 'I Had to...Find My Purpose Again'

Susan Jones | November 15, 2022 | 6:02am EST
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Former First Lady Michelle Obama discusses her new book and her 'purpose' with 'Late Show' host Stephen Colbert on Nov. 14, 2022. (Photo: Screen capture)
Former First Lady Michelle Obama discusses her new book and her 'purpose' with 'Late Show' host Stephen Colbert on Nov. 14, 2022. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - Introduced by "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert as "America's Mom," former First Lady Michelle Obama spent the better part of an hour on Monday night with Colbert, promoting her new book; discussing her empty-nest bliss; and mostly discussing her mental health during COVID -- "the looping in my head," as she described it, and her search for "purpose."

It remains to be seen whether Michelle Obama plans to run for elective office, but her book tour, her appearance on Colbert, and what she said on air is prompting speculation.

Obama said her book -- "The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times" -- was a "COVID project." She said her goal in writing it is "to start a conversation."

When the pandemic hit, Obama said, "we just shut down.”

"And I think, like a lot of people, locked at home, just sort of watching the world seemingly fall apart before our very eyes, I started kind of looping in my head. You know, wondering, like a lot of people, how did we get here and how are we going to get out?

"And I get questions all the time. I'm asked, how do you stay high when the world feels like it's in a low place? And this book is my best answer, you know. So I'd spent a lot of time kind of meditating and trying to get out of my head and trying to figure out what tools I could use to keep myself lifted, not to fall into depression and hopelessness.

“And so I'm offering some of the tools that I used. But the goal for me through this book is to start a conversation, because we -- we need to reconnect, you know.

“I don't think we do well -- we don't do well in isolation. We are all feeling anxious. We are all feeling unseen, unheard. We're afraid we don't know what is causing that fear. We don't know how to control it, how to quiet that fearful mind. And I'm no different. I had to work my way out of my hole and find my purpose again."

Obama said she's learned she has to quiet "the fearful mind" by "learning how to decode when that fear is going to help us and when it's holding us back."

She said people in the public eye, such as Colbert, get over their fear because they practice overcoming it:  "And what's on the other side, if you do it well, you do it right, is opportunity. It's openness. It's purpose. It's possibility," she said.

"And fearful minds are isolated, and their worlds become small. And I think too many of us are living in our small worlds, in our small minds, reinforced with our thoughts, the loop in our head. And then if you have leaders who are willing to take advantage of that, and lead with fear and prey on that instinct, then we fall over in the ditch."

(Notably, Obama was speaking the day before Donald Trump is expected to announce his third presidential run.)

'Try something purposeful'

Striking a bipartisan note, Obama said most Americans "are reasonable, decent people, regardless of political party -- regardless of party."

"And we've been so disconnected from each other. We don't get our own information about each other. We're hearing it through the media. We're reading it on our phones and we're not interacting with people who don't agree with us, knowing that just with the understanding that your worries come from a place, too, you know.

"Your fear comes from, you know, the anxiety of not having a job. You don't know how your life is going to turn out. Kids who are out here causing trouble, nobody's invested in them.

"You know, we have to find a way to find empathy again for each other so that we're not blaming one another, we're not demonizing one another. But that starts with understanding where did that fear come from?

“And so for me, part of the meditation in that chapter of the book is me trying to figure out how do I handle fear? You know, I talk about one of the most scared times in my life in the book. And look, I grew up in the inner city, things to really be afraid of.

“But the most afraid I was, was when my husband came to me and said he wanted to run for president of the United States. True...That's an uncertain time. And he said if I wasn't on board, he'd shut the whole thing down.

“And I just-- I sort of point out, with my fear alone, I could have changed the course of history. But I didn't. I said yes...I said yes, eventually. We're here. We did it. But in the decision I was making, I was like, why don't-- why would I say no to my husband's dream? What would cause me not to do it? And it was change. I didn't want to change anything.

"I didn't want to leave the home I knew. I didn't want to leave the friends I knew. I didn't want change. I didn't want discomfort. And I had to say to myself, is that a reason not to try something purposeful. Is that really what I say to my kids when they're older and I talking to my grandchildren, and they start talking about the time their father wanted to be president, but oh, no, little scared grandma here wanted to stay in her same house and rock in her chair..."

Colbert never asked her the obvious question: Are you planning to run for elective office?

But in a "20/20” interview, Michelle Obama -- asked by ABC’s Robin Roberts if she hoped Joe Biden would run again, said, "I will have to see.”

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