What Michelle Means to Us

November 30, 2008

Last week’s Newsweek cover story is “What Michelle Means to Us,” and I was more than a little excited to read it. Swiping the magazine from a waiting table, I hunkered down expecting a hard-hitting article about the First Lady-Elect, what I got was so much more. Allison Samuels wrote an in-depth, deeply personal analysis of the striking beauty of Mrs. Obama and all that she will bring to the proverbial table as our First Lady come January 20, 2009. Her husband is not the only figure entering the White House next month bearing the weight of the hopes and dreams of a generation.

The idea of Michelle Obama evokes murmurs of a resurrected Camelot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She calls herself “First Mom” and is putting not only her own family first but, rumor has it, will be putting the families of our brave men and women overseas serving in Afghanistan and Iraq at the forefront of her projects once she is First Lady. Coupled with her young, inspiring husband and their two adorable children, it is not surprising that comparisons to JFK and Jackie abound in the press and on the web.

My favorite part of Allison Samuels’ article is not the reminder and hope for a return to times past. My favorite discussion is her dissection of our First Lady-Elect as everything she is in addition to mother and wife.

Her ever-present appearance at the side of her husband during the election alongside the coverage of her habitual return to Chicago and her children may make it easy for some to forget that this woman is educated, driven and incredibly intelligent. She has served on the PTA and 6 Boards of Directors across Chicago. She finished law school a year before her husband and, again rumor has it, put off his advances when he interned at the law firm were she was an associate her first year out of school because of her concern over the ethics of an associate dating an intern.

Michelle Obama is the kind of woman I am proud to say I admire. She has not been afraid to speak her mind and has stood tall as those decisions have sometimes been ripped apart by the press. I have read the stories that criticize her fashion choices even the morning after Election Day.

I look forward to the next four (hopefully eight) years. I am excited to see this First Lady in action alongside her husband, and I have serious hopes that she will not be judged as First Ladys present – and past – have for their pursuits both inside and outside the White House. I can’t wait to see what she does next. I hope she inspires a whole new generation of women to step up to the plate.

-Rachael Berkey

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