On September 30, 2008 I met Michelle Obama. Just before the November election, Mrs. Obama came to CU-Boulder with the purpose of rallying students to register to vote. It was an exciting time, before the recession had taken its toll on the American spirit. I could feel the importance of the moment, that Michelle Obama was going to be our next first lady, and this was a golden opportunity to get close to her- one that would probably not happen for me again. Being several years out of college, it was intimidating to walk onto campus at CU-Boulder, so I was relieved when one of my best girl friends wanted to go with me. The Colorado sun shone brightly on that warm September day, and we felt the audacity of hope warm us through as we stood in line at the football field, waiting for the gates to open.
Michelle Obama was larger than life, emitting a strength of presence and calm confidence paired with heartfelt kindness rarely seen in women. She seemed to balance that character of strength with a likeability many of us females struggle to portray. To this day, I carry with me her words on cynicism. The encouragement that, while we may have reason to believe the obstacles are insurmountable, the government is broken, and the regular people have no voice, we must believe in change. Looking back on that moment now, I’m reminded of a post I wrote this February: Do You Remember Egypt? and the words activist Gigi Ibrahim spoke to a CNN interview on the Egyptian revolution:
A year ago I knew it would not be over in 18 days, no revolution is started in 18 days or even 18 months or 6 years.
Change takes time. Whenever I feel the cynicism creeping back in, the thoughts of helplessness, I remember Egypt and I remember the electricity I felt that day in the crowd at CU-Boulder, listening to Michelle Obama speak. As Michelle wrapped up her talk and the crowd cheered, I watched her step off the stage and walk by, shaking hands and offering encouragement. Surrounded by college boys, all jostling to get to her, I realized this was my moment, and she was going to pass me by. In a panic I called out, “Michelle! I’m a cancer patient and I need your help!” She whipped her head around and caught my eye. Pushing past the college kids, Michelle grabbed my hand and pulled me close to her, looking straight into my eyes, which were tearing up. “Michelle, I’m 25 years old, and I’m a leukemia patient. I have more medical bills than I will ever be able to pay, Please fight for me!” Tears rolled down my face. I wanted her to remember me when she stood by Barak Obama’s side at the White House. I pictured her carrying this image as a reminder of the real people the government is supposed to represent. Squeezing my hand, Michelle said, “We’re gonna fight for you.” I thanked her and she was whisked away.
As my friend and I walked away from campus and the crowd poured into the street, we couldn’t believe what had just happened. We hugged and cried and decided to celebrate with lunch at a favorite downtown Boulder restaurant (Mateo) and a bottle of rosé. Now every time I open a blushing pink bottle of French rosé, I remember that sunny September day I met Michelle Obama, and I feel that audacity of hope warming me through. For once, I don’t remember what we ate, but Mateo is a French Provençal restaurant, so it could have easily been the recipe below for sautéed mussels.
Recipe for Rosé-Steamed Mussels
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup rosé wine
6 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley