Michelle Obama touted a new kids’ version of her memoir on Good Morning America on Wednesday morning, when she urged young people to ‘protest’ against racism – but interestingly made no mention of yesterday’s ban on six Dr. Seuss books, which she frequently read to children during her time as First Lady.
The 57-year-old – who inked a joint book deal with her husband Barack, 59, in 2017 that reportedly earned them $65 million – released her youth-focused book, Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers, this week on the same day that it was announced that several Dr. Seuss titles will stop being published because of ‘racist and insensitive imagery’.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy, made the announcement on Tuesday, which coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.
The news came one day after Michelle’s close friend President Joe Biden omitted Dr. Seuss from Read Across America Day, which is held annually on the children’s author’s birthday on March 2, a move that was slammed by critics, who accused him of trying to ‘cancel’ the author.
Biden broke presidential tradition when he left out any mention of Dr. Seuss during his proclamation on Monday. Both Michelle’s husband Barack and Donald Trump recognized Dr. Seuss’ contributions several times in their annual proclamations during their respective presidencies.
Michelle also has a close personal connection to Dr. Seuss, having read many of the authors books to children during her time as First Lady, from 2008 to 2016.
Staying mum: Michelle Obama appeared on GMA on Wednesday morning to plug a new version of her memoir for kids – but made no mention of this week’s ban on Dr. Seuss books
Speaking out: The 57-year-old’s interview with Robin Roberts – during which she discussed racism – came just one day after it was revealed publication of six Dr. Seuss books will cease
Memories: During her time as First Lady, Michelle frequently read Dr. Seuss books to children – as she is seen doing in Florida in 2009
Favorites: Michelle often read The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham – neither of which have been banned – and she was trolled by Trump supporters in 2017 for chooing ‘racist’ books
Michelle was seen reading books like Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat, neither of which is on the list of books that have been banned.
However, in 2017, the former First Lady was trolled by Trump supporters over her choice of children’s literature amid a spat between Melania Trump and a Massachusetts school librarian.
In September of that year, Melania personally selected a selection of Dr. Seuss books to send to one school in each state – however the gift was rejected by Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro, who claimed that their whimsical illustrations were ‘steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes’.
Supporters of the Trump administration were quick to bring Michelle into the debate, pointing out that she regularly read Dr. Seuss’ books to children, and insisting that it was unfair to OK the books when they were promoted by the Obama White House, and then slam them when they were highlighted by Melania.
‘Dr. Seuss ok when Michelle Obama read it to children but now has racist undertones when our First Lady donates books?’ one person wrote. ‘Unreal.’
In 2015, Barack heaped praise on the author for providing thorough life lessons to children while speaking to White House interns about the messages of inclusivity that can be found in the books, saying that ‘pretty much all the stuff you need to know is in Dr. Seuss’.
Naming The Sneetches and Horton Hears a Who, neither of which were included in the publishing ban, as prime examples, he said: ‘We’re all the same, so why would we treat somebody differently just because they don’t have a star on their belly?
‘If I think about responsibility, I think about Horton sitting on the egg up in the tree while Lazy Mayzie’s flying off, doing whatever she wants. Know what I mean?’
Big bucks: Michelle and her husband Barack, 59, inked a joint book deal with Penguin Random House weeks after leaving the White House, which is believed to be worth $65 million
Although Michelle did not discuss the Dr. Seuss controversy during her interview, she did share her thoughts on the fight for racial equality in the US, urging young people to continue ‘marching’ and ‘protesting’.
Michelle also shared how she is teaching her own daughters to use ‘the power of their voices’ in her first interview since Joe Biden‘s inauguration.
Speaking about the Black Lives Matter protests that were held across the country in the wake of George Floyd‘s death last year, Michelle urged young people of all races to continue taking forceful steps to fight racism, saying: ‘We gotta march, we gotta protest.’
She added that ‘what happened at the polls this November’ has given her ‘hope’ that the country is moving towards positive change – but insisted that more needs to be done in order to ensure that the younger generation is educating themselves about key issues.
‘We have to vote. We have to be educated. We have to be informed,’ she said. ‘Young people are putting those pieces together and understand that it’s not either/or. It’s all of it.’
The former First Lady also said that she and her husband are working to teach their own daughters, college students Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19, to use ‘the power of their voices’, saying: ‘I always have wanted them to start practicing the power of their voices very early on.
‘Look, if you sit around the dinner table, me and Barack, we can’t get a word in edgewise and we like it like that. We want to hear their thoughts and their opinions and that’s where it begins.’
Both Malia and Sasha took part in anti-racism protests last year, their father revealed in November while praising the girls for getting involved in the marches ‘without any prompting’ from him or Michelle.
‘I didn’t have to give them a lot of advice because they had a very clear sense of what was right and what was wrong and [of] their own agency and the power of their voice and the need to participate,’ Obama told People.
Clearly eager to keep focus on her memoir Becoming, Michelle made many references to the title, telling anchor Robin Roberts that the responsibility of change in the US rests with young people because they are ‘they are not jaded’ or ‘beaten down’ and are ‘still wide open’ which ‘is the point of becoming’.
‘They are our hope,’ she said. ‘They are not jaded yet. They are not beaten down by what they’re supposed to be. They are still wide open. That’s the point of becoming.
Lesson: The mother-of-two said that she and former President Barack are teaching their daughters Sasha and Malia to use ‘the power of their voices’
‘If you are lucky, you will never become something and that’s the end. If you are lucky you will constantly grow and evolve until the day you cannot breathe anymore, you know. We are all learning and becoming something better and greater.’
Speaking about her own evolution since leaving the White House in early 2017, Michelle explained that she is working on ‘becoming someone who is comfortable getting out of the way so that the next generation can take the seat that I’m sitting in’.
‘I’m becoming more free and I hope I’m becoming smarter and wiser and more patient,’ she added.
The latest: Michelle’s new book Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers features a new foreword, and three photo inserts
The mother-of-two, who has also released a new paperback version of her book this week, made a thinly-veiled dig at former President Donald Trump while discussing the inauguration in January, praising Biden and Vice Preident Kamala Harris for being ‘brave and bold’ enough to ‘taking on a massive amount of responsibility to get this country back on track’.
‘To watch our friend Joe Biden and Jill stand there with their beautiful family, to see Kamala and her family standing there brave and bold knowing that they were taking on a massive amount of responsibility to get this country back on track…’ she said, describing the event as ‘glorious’.
However, Michelle admitted that there was a cloud hanging over the inauguration in the wake of the Capitol riots, which took place just days before the event, leaving many attendees afraid that something similar would happen again in protest against Biden’s presidency.
‘It was a glorious day, the sun was shining, the mood was wonderful but it was also mixed,’ she shared.
‘I think everyone was concerned about more riots but we were assured that things were under control. When you see fellow Americans storming the capitol, that sits with you. That reality was with us on that stage.’
She heaped praise on inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, saying that she was ‘moved almost to tears’ by her performance – and adding that she was ‘proud’ to see the 22-year-old showing the world that ‘a lot of black folks contribute to this country’.
Fear: Speaking about President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Michelle admitted that there was fear among attendees about more riots taking place at the Capitol
High praise: She paid tribute to inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, saying she was ‘proud’ that the 22-year-old is showing the world ‘a lot of black folks contribute to this country’
‘I was proud and moved almost to tears to hear not just her words but the confidence with which she delivered [them],’ Michelle said.
‘I know there are many, many Amanda Gormans. I’m just proud when one of them gets a chance to be seen and the rest of the nation and the world gets to see, yep, a lot of black folks contribute to this country. A lot of black folks have made this country what it is today.’
Michelle concluded the interview by delivering a message to America’s youth – while paying tribute to late civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, who died on Monday.
‘That’s the thing I want young people to know. There are many ways to make change,’ she said.
‘We need a lot more decent people who have humility and compassion and who are ready to be out in the world showing that off in whatever occupation they choose.’
Michelle’s interview comes one day after she published two new versions of her bestselling memoir Becoming – a special edition for ‘young readers’ and a paperback option – which she announced last month.
The new youth-focused edition of the book, which retails for $18.99, features a new foreword from the author, as well as three photo inserts, and is aimed at children aged 10 and older.
Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers comes two and a half years after the 2018 release of Michelle’s book, which has also been released in an audiobook format, and led to the launch of a $20 ‘guided journal’ created by the former First Lady.