Michelle Obama takes book tour to Bay Area, inspires crowd

Michelle Obama stepped onto the stage at the SAP Center in San Jose and faced a sold-out crowd of 12,600 people, who came from throughout northern California and even Nevada to hear the former First Lady talk about her new book titled 'Becoming.'

"It is a message (not just) to young people but to all of us," she said, explaining the meaning of the title. 

The book, she explained, has stories about her constant search for herself, in the lifelong journey of becoming older, wiser, and taking on different roles. 

She encouraged the people in the audience to embrace constant change, which she says all people must face as they go through life.

"You have so many lives to live, you have so many mistakes that you can recover from, so much you can learn from. Don't beat yourself up," Michelle Obama said, encouraging the audience, "I will be 55 on my next birthday and I am still becoming." 

She talked about friendships across political parties, explaining the now famous moment George W. Bush passed her a mint at his father's funeral, bringing humor and humility to their friendship.

"Those were old. Those Altoids were old," Mrs. Obama said laughing, "I'm like these are White House Altoids how long have you had these? And he's like we took a bunch of these when we left."

She noted, "We can disagree as people in our politics without demonizing each other. We don't agree on everything but and that doesn't make him any less of a person than me."

Michelle Obama also said one of the most important things her parents taught her was compassion and empathy. She described how she came to understand that her grandfather's grumpy ways came after years of disappointments, obstacles, and discrimination.

"It's important for people to know there are people walking around with that context, those wounds, those challenges, those disappointments. and often we can't judge each other," she said, "the one thing my parents always did for me is understand people in their full context." 

Many said they admired the nation's first African American first lady for her strength and what she represents.

"For young people the future and for all of the citizens. The way we can come together and do good things for our country," said Mae Threadgill of San Francisco.

"A good role model for women so anything's possible and younger girls knowing they can become anything they want to become," said Belinda Racklin of El Sobrante.

Some said that Michelle Obama is a woman who has lived at the height of American politics and society, but seems very down to earth. 

"I think she's an amazing speaker, I think that where she comes from and especially after reading almost all of the book, she's just your friendly neighborhood person," said Parminder Grewal, who gave her two daughters copies of the book and tickets to the event for their birthdays.

Michael Mannina and Ashley Yang of Newark said they hadn't thought they'd ever be able to see Michelle Obama in person, so they jumped at the chance. 

"We're really excited," said Mannina, "The Obamas and Michelle aren't the type of people we get to see in person very often in your life." 

"When you're watching her on TV or watching her on a website, there are distractions so seeing her live in a dark auditorium, I think is much more intimate.. I feel it is a much more meaningful," said Yang. 

More than 1,000 tickets were given away free to community groups, something Michelle Obama does at each stop on her book tour. 

"It's a great thing. Mrs. Obama has designated 10% of her tickets to go to volunteers and people who can't afford it," said Susanne Perkins, an Oakland library volunteer who says receiving the free ticket was like winning the lottery.

Free tickets also meant the world to a group of first generation college students in the LEAD organization at Santa Clara University, who read about Michelle Obama's own trials at Princeton as a first generation student.

"I just started crying," said Blanca Moncada, a first generation college student at Santa Clara University, "To me Michelle Obama serves as an example that we all can come from a background to where we don't have as many resources that other people may have, but just using the resources you have...as long as you are persistent you will become something that you only dreamt of being."