In a wide-ranging discussion at the inaugural Obama Summit with poet Elizabeth Alexander, former first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday called on men to hold one another accountable — and for parents not to “protect” boys too much.
“Y’all need to get you some friends,” Obama joked. Women “straighten each other out on some things ... Y’all need to go talk to each other about your stuff because there’s so much of it. It’s so messy. Talk about why y’all the way you are.”
The comments, which were met with applause and laughter, came on day two of the Foundation Summit in Chicago — which former President Barack Obama on Tuesday described as a “big brainstorming session” for activists and organizers across the world.
In a conversation at the summit, Michelle Obama discussed her engagement with the arts, the importance of self-care and maintaining civil discourse, taking a veiled dig at President Donald Trump by saying that “you don’t tweet every thought.”
“Every word you utter has consequences,” she said. “Words matter at this level.”
But Obama repeatedly returned to the theme of empowering women to use their voice — and prevent boys from growing up to be “entitled” men.
“We love our boys and raise our girls,” she said. “We raise them to be strong and sometimes we take care not to hurt men, and I think we pay for that a little bit.
“Are we protecting our men too much so they feel a little entitled, a little self-righteous sometimes?”
By contrast, Obama suggested that young women are often not taught to use their voice and must be encouraged from an early age to speak their mind.
“It takes practice to have a voice,” she said. “It doesn’t just happen overnight.”
Speakers at the Obama Summit — which have included Prince Harry — have encouraged hands-on civic engagement and open dialogue among people with different viewpoints.
“Real change comes through persuasion and openness to others,” Barack Obama said Tuesday.