Members of Detroit Cristo Rey’s debate team and journalism club heard Michelle Obama speak at Little Caesars Arena Dec. 11 for her “Becoming” book tour. Pictured (left to right): Jennifer Penaloza, Teacher and Debate Coach R.C. Thorsby, Yulisa Hermosillo, Crystal Ramirez, Tamia Willis, Sierra Dawson, Esmeralda Hermosillo, Isabel Lopez, Nicolas Perales, Omar Angeles, Estrella Escutia, and Debate Coach Katja Molinaro.


Flashing lights sparkled from Little Caesars Arena on the evening of Dec. 11, as crowds waited outside in the endless line to get at least a glimpse of Michelle Obama. It was cold, but it didn’t matter. Ten members of the Detroit Cristo Rey debate team, along with three chaperones, were among the crowd excited to see Obama on her “Becoming” book tour.

Inside the arena, voices got quiet as the lights dimmed. After an energetic introduction by comedian, writer, and actress Phoebe Robinson, Obama rose as a phoenix would and walked on stage with the song “Girl on Fire” blasting from the audio system, almost as powerful as the cheers of the crowd.

Robinson, who is known for the HBO special “2 Dope Queens,” was the perfect host for the evening. The interview was natural as if they were just two best friends having a conversation on a porch on a Sunday evening. Such a fluid conversation was due to Robinson’s charisma, but also to Obama’s vulnerability of being open about her journey. Obama was not afraid of unapologetically expressing her truth. She mentioned more personal and sometimes taboo topics, such as therapy. She was easily relatable as she talked about not only her personal experience in the White House, but about family, marriage, miscarriages, and about being a minority in a top-tier university. At the same time, she made the White House feel less intimidating as she talked about raising her children there.

Obama quickly transformed from her illusion of a distant and unachievable persona to someone bravely vulnerable and real. 

Isabel Lopez, a junior at Detroit Cristo Rey, said she was inspired by the evening. 

“It was amazing to hear a woman come from a place like mine,” said Lopez. “It’s so inspirational because through hard work she made something of herself.”

“Becoming” Offers Even More of Michelle Obama

Obama’s appearance at LCA was full of revealing moments and inspiring stories, but it was only the Spark Notes version of her life. Her book “Becoming” creates a much more intimate relationship between her and the reader. The book centers around her life from growing up in Chicago to life after the White House. 

Not many people know Obama’s determination developed early in childhood. Even before she started kindergarten, Obama had a love of reading. Once in kindergarten, her reading ability placed her at the top of her class. Ambition drove her to go beyond her standing and her mindset was set on improvement, whether it was learning the piano, or studying in school. This passion to be better and to improve led Obama from a community in Chicago — that doesn’t seem that different than Detroit — to success. 

By sharing her story in both the book and the tour, Obama sends the message that there is no excuse to not succeed, as long as you have passion.