Past Event On June 7, 2022

Former First Lady Michelle Obama

An Evening with the Former First Lady

Former First Lady Michelle Obama

“Sometimes we get lost in the notion that we have to be able to give our kids everything . . . and we lose sight of the fact that all they need to know is that we adore them. That we light up just to have them in their presence. They don’t need us to be rich. I didn’t need my father to be wealthy. He wasn’t connected, but my father was there, and we laughed. We had no money, but we loved each other, and that was more than enough.”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama



For the second time in Forum history–the first being President Barack Obama’s appearance at The Forum in 2017–over 6,000 subscribers, community members, and students attended our special program with Former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Altria Theater and live via satellite at the Dominion Energy Center.

The Huguenot High School Jazz Band performed before the program where we introduced Chris Medina, executive director of the National HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Speech & Debate Association, to our audience to announce that in 2023, the National HBCU Speech & Debate Association would be hosting their national competition in Richmond.

Local outstanding speech & debate students Tani Washington (Deep Run High School graduate and current Western Kentucky University student) and Kameron Belfield (recent graduate of Armstrong High School and incoming Virginia State University student) welcomed moderator Heather Crislip and Mrs. Obama to the stage, citing the great inspiration that these young women have received from Mrs. Obama’s leadership.

Ms. Washington, a 2020 national top five speech and debate student, said “[Mrs. Obama’s] work showed me a glimpse of long-awaited representation in policymaking, giving me the confidence to do speech and debate, advocate for myself in the classroom, and ultimately be on this stage today.”

“So for young people out there . . . you don’t have to change the world to change something.”

– Former first Lady Michelle Obama

When Mrs. Obama took to the stage of The Richmond Forum, her remarks encouraged young people to seek out change in their daily lives without pressuring themselves too much to check aspirational boxes, as they will have more than enough time in their lives to explore all of their passions with time as she has.

She also shared the message with parents that the values of love and family are the most important to provide in a child’s life. Her message of understanding reached beyond the family as she spoke about how society can move forward in the future through speech and debate.

“You can’t just go to the straight hard issues, first you have to build familiarity and trust. I think that’s work that in some ways has been put on hold because of the pandemic. We have lost our muscles for social connection and interaction, and much of that is out of the necessity to stay safe. But that’s important. Before I can talk to somebody about politics, I have to be able to connect to them on a basic level.”

Explore the program book.

We are so proud to have brought the Former First Lady to Richmond to connect with our audience and raised significant funds thanks to our tickets and donations to provide resources to speech & debate students, coaches, and teams in 2022 – 2023 and beyond.

“Bravo to The Richmond Forum for bringing us the wisdom and grounding insights of Former First Lady Mrs. Michelle Obama! Mrs. Obama left a lasting impression on the entire audience and the more than 300 students she greeted after her inspiring interview. The atmosphere in the theater was electric and everyone left the evening feeling inspired and motivated.

As the chair of the education committee, I was also inspired by the caliber of the students who introduced Mrs. Obama and our new Executive Director Ms. Heather Crislip. The students truly demonstrated the importance of the speech and debate program in helping our youth excel.”

– Dr. Betty Crutcher, Forum Board Member

About Michelle Obama

Michelle Robinson Obama served as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017, transforming the position and becoming a role model, champion and inspiration for women, families, and young people across America and around the world.

As First Lady, Mrs. Obama launched and led four key initiatives:

  • Let’s Move! brought together community leaders, educators, parents, celebrities, medical professionals, and others in a nationwide effort to address the challenge of childhood obesity
  • Joining Forces, which she launched with Dr. Jill Biden, called on all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities
  • Reach Higher aimed to inspire young people across America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university
  • Let Girls Learn focused on helping adolescent girls around the world go to school. Mrs. Obama’s work on girls’ education continues through the Girls Opportunity Alliance at the Obama Foundation

Mrs. Obama attended Chicago public schools until enrolling in Princeton where she studied sociology and African American studies. She graduated cum laude from Princeton in 1985 and received a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. She then joined the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met her future husband, Barack Obama. Following her time at Sidley & Austin, Mrs. Obama served as an assistant to Mayor Richard Daley and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development for the city of Chicago, before becoming the founding Executive Director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares young people for public service careers.

As part of her continued focus on community service and engagement, Mrs. Obama joined the University of Chicago in 1996 as its Associate Dean of Student Services focused on fostering connections between the campus and community. She also served as Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center. In 2018, Michelle Obama published her memoir, Becoming, which sold more copies than any other book published in the United States in 2018, achieving that status in just 15 days and instantly rising to the #1 slot on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Becoming has since sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, and in 2021 Mrs. Obama released a young readers edition adapted for children ages 10 and up.

In 2018, Mrs. Obama and President Obama launched Higher Ground Productions, a company focused on lifting up diverse voices in the entertainment industry. As part of Higher Ground, Netflix launched the Becoming documentary rooted in her memoir.

In 2020, Mrs. Obama released the Michelle Obama Podcast where she hosted conversations with family, friends, and colleagues, exploring the relationships in our lives who make us who we are. In 2021, Higher Ground Productions also launched Waffles + Mochi, a culinary children’s series on Netflix. Alongside the release of the series, Mrs. Obama launched Pass the Love with Waffles + Mochi, a joint campaign with the Partnership for a Healthier America, which aims to provide meals to families experiencing food insecurity. Visit for more information.

Mrs. Obama was born on January 17, 1964. She married Barack Obama in 1992. They currently live in Washington, DC, and have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Who Else has spoken at The Forum?

More than 240 distinguished speakers have participated in The Forum since its inception in 1987. Our list of alumni includes past U.S. presidents, sitting heads of state, and leaders from the sciences, arts, business, and more.

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