November 5th, 2008
04:30 PM ET

Michelle Obama: America’s Next First Lady

Erica Hill
AC360 ° Correspondent

Imagine what this morning must have been like for the Obamas. Did Michelle Obama wake up, turn to her husband and say, “Good morning, Mr. President?” Were they even able to sleep? Have Malia and Sasha already logged on to their local shelter’s website to find their new dog (yes, I am unabashedly lobbying for the new First Family to rescue that puppy!)? When does the reality of what just happened sink in? Every First Family must have that “Oh my goodness, WE DID IT!” feeling, coupled with a tinge of disbelief… and relief. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in those moments!

Of course, the “sinking-in” time is short-lived. Before lunchtime today, word came that the President-elect’s first top secret intelligence briefing has already been scheduled for tomorrow. Last night, before Grant Park had cleared out, I was assigned a piece on what kind of First Lady Michelle Obama will be, and I wasn’t alone. In The New York Post’s story this morning, we were told Mrs. Obama will bring “glamour” to the White House; The Times in the UK paints Michelle Obama as a “new type of First Lady”, who is “supportive, independent and a fashion icon.” The Reuters headline reads “Michelle Obama: new style of First Lady”.

It’s interesting that so many stories about Michelle Obama make mention of her fashion sense. Yes, she has brought great style to the campaign trail and will likely continue to be a trendsetter in the White House, not unlike Jackie Kennedy. We know she shops at the mall stores many other American moms frequent: JCrew and White House/ Black Market. But there’s more to Michelle Obama than her shopping habits. For a glimpse of the kind of First Lady she will be, we should be turning to her style as a daughter, a wife, and a mother.

Let’s start in her hometown of Chicago, where Michelle Robinson was raised in a tight-knit middle-class family on the city’s South Side. Instilled with a strong work ethic, she graduated Princeton and received her law degree from Harvard. As her husband’s presidential campaign stretched over more than 20 months, Michelle Obama emerged as an independent, supportive and passionate woman. She spoke often of her girls and their place at the top of any list in her life. She spoke of her struggles, of her strength, of the stress her marriage has faced and of her faith. She pledged her support to her fellow working parents and to the military families, sacrificing so much at home and abroad. Most of all, she spoke directly to the thousands of people who turned out to hear her stump for her husband.

As for the historic nature of this election, it can’t be ignored, but don’t expect it to define this First Lady. “In the end, she will be first lady of all the people,” Carl Anthony, a historian at the National First Ladies Library told me. “For white southerners as well as for black southerners; for recent immigrants as well as people whose ancestors have been here for many generations, whether they came in slave ships, or whether they came by their own accord as immigrants. I think that that is some of the beauty of the role as first lady, it's almost like being mother of the nation.” Perhaps not much of a stretch for this mother of two

Editor's Note: See Erica’s full report on the kind of First Lady Michelle Obama will be, on AC360 tonight at 10p ET.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Michelle Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Cindy Jones

    I hope all who voted for Obama are happy! I'm scared to death about our country and where its going to be headed!
    I figure anyone with the middle name of "Hussein" is related somehow and someone who wants to control and take away guns from the people of the US has "a plan" for an inside job! And now, there is nothing you can do about it.

    I new bumper sticker out which is perfect reads:

    Don't blame me, I voted for McCain/Palin!!

    November 6, 2008 at 11:58 am |
  2. ola (UK)

    I am delighted that a woman of such humility and intelligence is going to be the next First -Lady of the US. I am hoping she would continue to be herself and support her husband even more, and make him and everyone that voted him in proud. As for Gail, what???????????. I suggets you wake up and smell the coffee! its a new dawn, so join the majority and be positive!

    November 6, 2008 at 11:56 am |
  3. Auma

    We love Michelle! She is a woman of class and she does not forget her role as a mother and as a wife! Not everyone might like her and this is because no one has ever seen a Black First Lady before in the white house. God Bless Michelle and her family plus the president of the world-Barack (Meaning Blessing) Obama!

    November 6, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  4. Shelly in MS

    When people like Gail make such nasty comments you have to ask yourself "What is lacking in her life" to make her habor so much hatred towards such an obviously intelligent, classy, supportive, wife, mother, and daughter as Michelle Obama? Gail needs to take a look in the mirror and face her own demons that have NOTHING to do with the Obamas.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:50 am |
  5. Karen -San Antonio

    I was wondering the same thing. What must be going through their minds the next day. I was so excited I could not sleep. I know alot of people couldn't ....to include the Obama family. This is an awesome time in American history. I feel like crying everytime I think about the miracle of this. Michelle must be so proud of her husband and the kids so proud of their dad. I wish nothing but blessings for this family. I know that Barack is going to be a wonderful president because I honestly believe he will have ALL peoples interest at heart regardless of race, political affiliations or sexual preferences. I feel so blessed to have lived to witness this moment in America. I believe that this gives everyone HOPE for a better tomorrow.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:50 am |
  6. Bob

    I just wonder if she is finally "Proud to be an American???" I really don't think she is...

    November 6, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  7. Jean54

    This is for Gail again.

    Your problem is you (hate) you might as well admit it, no matter what anyone say good about Michelle you will not like it. Please don't say that you are a Christian, because from your words you are hellbound

    I don't even think you know what class is. The silly comment that Cindy McCain has more class in her little finger then Michell will have the rest of her life sounds like a 2 year old.

    What do you say behind closed doors!

    November 6, 2008 at 11:39 am |
  8. Paula (Indiana)

    Michelle Obama, like Hillary Clinton, Jackie Kennedy, and Barbara Bush will leave her mark on history. She is every bit as awesome as her husband. She is going to be such a positive force during the course of Obama's administration.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:26 am |
  9. Virginia

    Gail: You should be ashamed of yourself....such hate! I can't imagine too many Republicans would be happy to claim you as one of their own.

    November 6, 2008 at 11:26 am |
  10. Marcella

    Over the pass two years following the Obamas and the McCains, I notice a huge difference between the wives of the candidates, the Obamas are warm, they hug a lot and Michelle is not only smart and articulate, but quite charming and always has a smile on her face, and always reach out to the crowd, shaking hands and taking pictures and giving hugs, and what I admire most is the public affection between her and her husband, and the loving interaction with this family. On the other hand, Cindy is quite the opposite, hardly ever interacts with the crowd, stand off, and hardly ever does the MaCains show any love or affection between them, somtimes just looking at Cindy she appears to be there only its a duty, but not because she wants to, I was really turned off by Cindy McCain who appears to look like the Stafford wife.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:56 am |
  11. Karen, Corvallis, OR

    Louise, I agree with you. Gail, if you're so sick to your stomach, maybe you should put a bag over your head.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:46 am |
  12. Jeflyn T Texas

    The day after , has anyone bothered to talk to any black students on majority white campuses in the south. My daughter just called an said at her 18% black campus there has been radial aggression. As she walked to class the morning of the election she noticed a rope over a tree , but in denial and her mind occupied with voting for Mr. Obama she blew it off. Well today that was in the college newspaper "The Lariat, today a picture of the noose. Also there have been multiple incidences of white students yelling out racial epitates, Black male students being taunted into verbal battles outside of Penland hall. Yes , at Baylor university, Waco , Texas, a religious university based on christian principles and an enormous tuition. How I wonder can this be happening in 2008 after the election of such a great man. It is late so I have to wait until tomorrow to contact the school officials. I had to say to my daughter , what ever you do do not go out by yourself at night , like when we were younger and had to watch out for the clan. I just wonder if Texas a red state if all these large predominetly white institution are experiencing this same unruley behavior. She said to meMommy i cannot beleive some of the things I have read in facebook, and that this historic event is causing people to act this way.Mommy , I just wonder if they are trying to make the 18% of us to transfer out. All I could say was please make sure you walk wih others and don't go out at night.I am tonight a very frightened mother waiting until morning to make that call.

    November 6, 2008 at 1:29 am |
  13. Donna Davidson

    Gail the election is over and the best man won...so get over it ! It's time for this nation to pull together.Remember.....YES WE CAN!

    November 5, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  14. EJ (USA)

    What happened yesterday is so big, so significant, so transformative in so many ways that it is hard to try to put it into words. Obama's ability to inspire, not just many of us here in the US, but so many more around the world is simply remarkable. Michelle also symbolizes hope for so many women around the world that don't even have a tenth of the opportunity that women in the US have. This is just an amazing time.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:32 pm |
  15. Kathy, Chicago

    The first time I ever saw the Obamas together it was evident that she wore the pants in the family, and he was along for the ride. She is a strong and confident woman. I also think that that was one of the worst dresses I've ever seen, last night. I'm sure she will be awarded many assistants for fashion and all other duties. We will all be watching her mature as First Lady!

    November 5, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  16. Larry

    At last Princeton can release Michelle Obama's thesis, which had been under seal until today. Its quite the read, if you have a decent background in statistical data analysis you'll see how she tries to validate what she really feels about white people.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  17. EJ (USA)

    Erica, I am still on cloud nine.

    Oh me too. Me too.

    November 5, 2008 at 8:10 pm |
  18. Annie Kate

    I think we've had several first ladies since 1960 that were beloved and admired by the citizens – Jackie Kennedy, Betty Ford, and Nancy Reagan. Those are the ones that stand out in my mind; I have a hard time remembering the others.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 5, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  19. Mz Leah

    I am reminded of something that my mom drilled into each of her five children. "No one rises to low expectations".
    The reason Sen. McCain lost is he was focused on the past.
    We must focus on the future and not the past.
    The past is just that. That is why it is called ...history.
    Leah/ Oakland, CA

    November 5, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  20. Mary

    I am so terrified of Obama for my children and family because of his association with highly radical university educated killers who have a plan in place for the extermination of tens of millions of Americans. We are very afraid.


    November 5, 2008 at 7:47 pm |
  21. Eugenia-San Francisco, Ca

    The more I think about it, when was the last time there was so much love felt for the first lady?

    November 5, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  22. chuck

    She could be the next President in 2016 .Michelle has lots of time to watch and grow.The world will see the QUALITY and KNOWLEDGE that she is equipped with. America is Once more on top of the world and she will shine BRIGHTLY.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:36 pm |
  23. Max

    She seems SO together ...

    Maybe she intimidates a FEW but I think she INSPIRES more.

    (I like the way she dresses too!!!!)

    November 5, 2008 at 7:31 pm |
  24. Louise

    @Gail- it is time to put the hatred aside

    November 5, 2008 at 7:23 pm |
  25. carol kesling

    there is only one thing i can say CLASSSSSSSS !!!!!!!! this is a true american family with values, they dont come any better !!!! i only wish GRANDMA "TOOT" could had made it one more day, but maybe SHE ALREADY KNEW !!!!!!! my heart goes out to the family in this difficult time... but im sure they are at peace, she is in a better place!!!! GOD BLESS.... GOD SPEED, GOOD LUCK !!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 at 7:06 pm |
  26. JRQ La Habra, Ca

    I hope we can leave Mrs Obama and her lovely daughters alone. Really, alone.

    Never forget what the Media did you President Carters little girl Amy!

    I really feel bad for these girls.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  27. Megan Dresslar (Shoreline, Wa)

    Hellooo Erica......
    I am so exciting for Michelle Obama to be elected first lady!!!! I can't wait see you interview Michelle tonight....... She will be more power first lady in the White House!!! ( Tomorrow, I will not be there live blog, I need break I will fly to Hawaii tomorrow morning for my vacation for seven days!)

    November 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  28. Rodger B. Null

    Strange that I seem to be the only male adding to this.

    With one possible exception (Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt), I believe Michelle is going to be the best First Lady the USA has ever had.

    She is very intelligent, very accomplished, assertive, a good mother, a supportive partner and clearly has ethics and morals. What else can anyone ask for?

    I am sure that she could do the same job a her husband should the need arise (a fact that Obama has stated), though I expect that is not something she would want.

    Don't worry about "style", she will be the first non-Stepford Wife we have ever had as our First Lady, Mother of the Nation 🙂

    November 5, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  29. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Cindy MCcain has more class in her little finger, then Michelle will have the rest of her life

    Michelle has lowered the standard for First Lady's
    The first lady of hate. We have never seen anybody like her before.

    Read her Thesis--Shameful.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  30. Bob in (blue-state) Maryland

    President-Elect and Michelle Obama are a beautiful couple. She will be a fantastic First Lady. She if perfect for the job. Obviously strong yet warm; intelligent but humble, and a caring mother. The country finally got it right!!

    November 5, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  31. Terry

    Hallelujah! We have a smart, honest and sincere new First Lady.
    She will do great things. But can't we talk? She almost always looks dinomite, but last night that frock looked like a black widow spider.
    They are both stunning . I'm looking forward to looking at how they
    use that incredible charisma to enhance our cultural world. Excuuuse
    Me !

    November 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  32. GAIL Centre,Al;

    I hope they didn't sleep much, I didn't. The very thoughts of Michelle Obama in the whitehouse makes me sick to my stomach.

    We have elected a man who has never even balanced a budget for a little country store.

    If you voted for Obama, you got it, and when he raises our taxes, get a JOB, and start paying your fair share.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  33. Brenda Harris

    Erica, I didn't sleep at all last night. I am so overwhelmed. I have been on this since day one. I hope we continue communicating with each other. I think we really need each other now and always. Obama will not be able to do this without us. Let's stay together.

    I think they should get a yorkie or something small hairy and cute like they are.

    And one more thing

    Michelle, can I come over for tea?

    November 5, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  34. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT


    I am delighted with our new First lady, Michelle Obama. She is an intelligent, beautiful and articulate woman. She appears to be a wonderful mom and wife. She will be a huge support to her husband, our new President!

    I hope and pray for the best for Michelle Obama!

    May God bless & protect President & Mrs. Obama & their beautiful girls!

    November 5, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  35. Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    I also believe she will be a new "style" or "type" of First Lady and I think that will be refreshing. I hope, though, that we don't focus so much on what she's wearing but more on what she will accomplish as a First Lady. I'd hate for her to fall into an unjust "stereotype" like other First Ladies have in the past. That would not be fair to her or to the whole mantra of "change" their campaign has been driving. First Lady of the People has a nice ring to it. Looking forward to your report.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  36. Mary Pat in California

    I am certain they slept like rocks and awoke fully aware of the work ahead!

    November 5, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  37. Eugenia-San Francisco, Ca

    "I think that is some of the beauty of the role as first lady, it’s almost like being mother of the nation"

    it is

    November 5, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  38. tammy williams

    Our First Lady today woke up and did what i believe she would normally do. She got up got breakfast for her girls and took them to school. I believe that because her and President Barack Obama are simple living people and all the glitz and glame is not her or him. Also our First Lady is not just about style but she is just as qualified as her husband in my book just better looking, she is a very intelligent and smart lady it is a honor to have that family to be our First family. Please pray for their strength and their blessings. This world still have a lot of crulty. This man I do believe has been sent by God and he and his family are covered by the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so continue to keep them in your prayers.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  39. Eryn, Iowa

    This is my very 1st blog and I am proud to comment on our new First Lady-elect, Michelle. My opinion is that Michelle will keep raising her daughters and making sure they are protected from all the 'extras' which comes with a President's family. She will be a good hostess for anyone coming to the White House, will surely find on outlet for her intelligence and compassion for the people in our land to help her husband and us, come together in unity. She deserves all our respect and honor we can show her. Also, according to Barak last night, she most likely raising a new little puppy after they move!

    November 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  40. Suzy - Edmonton, AB

    As I was going to bed last night, after watching Obama's acceptance speech, I was wondering some of the same things. Will they get any sleep tonight? What all must be going through their minds and hearts? If you figure out a way to be that fly on the wall, I'd love to join you!

    November 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  41. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    I sure hope Michelle Obama doesn't have to face the fashion police all the time. We really must stop judging women on their choice of clothing. I wish her the best as the new First Lady.
    I vote that they adopt a puppy ASAP. There's a little dog out there, somewhere, that needs a home.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  42. Lilibeth

    Erica, I am still on cloud nine. I couldn’t sleep last night. I got up this morning and felt this burst of energy. Suddenly, I feel like anything is possible. Anything. If we want to accomplish something good for the country and the world, even if it seems impossible, it can be done. It’s like I’m in this constant state of euphoria. What a wonderful feeling! I think Michelle Obama will be an amazing First Lady. I’m not much of a fashion person; in fact, I’m a geek. But she has a good heart and intelligence, and frankly, that’s enough for me. I look forward to your report. See you later,

    Edmonds, Washington

    November 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm |
  43. karen-phoenix

    Erica: Please, please stay with this and write and do more on Michelle Obama. I love the women!!! She is such a wonderful role model for our young families. The whole Obama family is a fantastic role model for our young families and young men and women who want to reach for the stars!!! God Bless the Obama's and Biden's.
    The Biden's are great role models also!!!

    November 5, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  44. Erma in Missouri

    I was thinking about that puppy too. I have a wonderful Scottish Terrier and because the county in which I live is strongly Republican, I have had to state his "Democratic" status on many occasions. So I realize a Scottie is not high on their list, but can you picture the fun they are going to have picking it out? I would love to see that.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  45. Kristien,Antwerp, Belgium


    I've always thought of Michelle Obama as a classy lady. Yes, she has great style, but, more importantly, she comes across as a very intelligent, caring and strong woman.
    I'm sure that she will be a great First Lady and that her husband will be a great President!!

    I'm looking forward to your report tonight! ( I would love to see you do more stories, you're great!)

    Kristien x

    November 5, 2008 at 4:48 pm |