With Mother's Day approaching I want to think about Michelle Obama's assertion that her primary role as First Lady is "Mom-in-Chief."
Many progressive feminists were distressed with Michelle's assertion of motherhood as her primary role. They hoped she would seek a more aggressive policy agenda. After all Michelle Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She spent her career as an effective advocate for urban communities in their fraught relationship with powerful institutions. She is smart, capable, and independent. She maintained her own career and ambitions throughout Barack's early political career and even during his election to the U.S. Senate.
Truth is, some of us who were in the orbit of the Obamas ten years ago believed Michelle, not Barack, was the real star of the couple. So while I don't think anyone expected her to commute to a 9-to-5 job in D.C; many hoped that she would take on an independent political role in the Obama administration.
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Michelle Obama doesn't just inspire us. She affirms us with her intelligence, authenticity, depth and compassion. We see the best of ourselves in her and marvel that no matter what she's doing, she brings 100% of herself to the experience.
I first met Michelle almost five years ago, shortly after Senator Barack Obama's riveting 2004 DNC speech. Long before there was serious talk of a campaign for the presidency, I remember going to the Obamas' house for dinner. I figured there would be takeout since I knew that, like me, Michelle had worked all day. But no, there she was in the kitchen, calm and organized, preparing linguine with shrimp and vegetables.
The woman I witnessed five years ago, with her graciousness, care and attention to detail, is the same woman I visited in the White House in February. Her very presence makes you feel welcome. Her political power is secondary to her heart power, and I salute her for that. I trust her. I know that whatever she gives her attention to, the truth will always be present. She doesn't make false moves.
The Wall Street Journal
Desirée Glapion Rogers is the descendant of a Creole voodoo priestess named Marie Laveau Glapion. The first time I meet her, she welcomes me into her East Wing lair—a rhythm and blues tune plays on a white iPod, a potted white orchid perches between two windows, fresh flowers sit on a heavy wooden desk. This is a woman who never sees a wilted bloom. The 49-year-old turns on just enough Southern charm to camouflage an aura of self-assuredness typically reserved for runway models or first ladies. Wearing a crisp white shirt, black patent flats and high-waisted navy slacks that would look terrible on almost anyone else, Rogers talks about her job as White House social secretary.
If there’s one thing Desirée Rogers and Desirée Rogers’ staff want you to know—and will keep reminding you until you get it—it’s that the president and Michelle Obama plan to open up the White House and once again make it the “people’s house.” They want to create an environment where average Americans might stop by and catch the first lady serving homemade huckleberry cobbler and caramel ice cream to students, tending to the vegetable garden on the South Lawn or watching the romantic comedy “He’s Just Not That Into You” with her girlfriends. The president is, of course, meeting with foreign dignitaries. In one of the most visible roles in the Obama administration, Rogers is out to solidify the first family as one of the most memorable in presidential history, and the Ivy League–educated first lady, in particular, as the most popular mom-in-chief.
Heather Ferreira works in the slums of Mumbai, India, where she has watched thousands of women live under a "curse."
The women she meets in the squalid streets where "Slumdog Millionaire" was filmed are often treated with contempt, she says. They're considered ugly if their skin and hair are too dark. They are deemed "cursed" if they only have daughters. Many would-be mothers even abort their children if they learn they're female.
Yet lately she says Indian women are getting another message from the emergence of another woman thousands of miles away. This woman has dark skin and hair. She walks next to her husband in public, not behind. And she has two daughters. But no one calls her cursed. They call her Michelle Obama, the first lady.
"She could be a new face for India," says Ferreira, program officer for an HIV-prevention program run by World Vision, an international humanitarian group. "She shows women that it's OK to have dark skin and to not have a son. She's quite real to us."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
First lady Michelle Obama’s easy charm is so infectious that she melted the famously stiff and formal Queen of England. During a G-20 reception last week, Elizabeth even embraced Mrs. Obama with a demure, hand-on-the-back gesture.
“It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said, adding that he couldn’t remember the last time the queen had so publicly departed from the royals’ no-touching protocol.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, Michelle Obama has also won rave reviews from a once-skeptical public, with a recent Gallup poll giving her a 72 percent favorability rating, slightly higher than the president’s. Though detractors still occasionally pan her fashion choices or cluck prudishly over her athletic bare arms, Americans clearly have taken to their new first lady.
Protocol expert and author
When Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II said to the President and Mrs. Obama, “Let’s keep in touch,” no one suspected that she meant it quite literally. When one thinks of the queen, “touchy feely” usually doesn’t enter one’s mind. Until now.
Her Royal Highness made it crystal clear yesterday at Buckingham Palace in London that she likes the First Lady very much as she gently put her arm around her waist. In general, it is a breach in protocol if someone embraces the queen first. However, in this case, it was the queen who made the first move. Michelle simply reciprocated with a hug that looked like something you would see a daughter give to her mother. This bold move both shocked and warmed the hearts of all who witnessed the warm embrace.
Historically, the queen is not known for showing affection in public, or in private for that matter. It’s been said that her son, Prince Charles, complained on one occasion that he wasn’t given enough affection as a child. Could it be that the queen is starting to mellow as she ages or does she simply admire qualities in Michelle that she sees in herself? After all, if you mix brilliance, strength and confidence with a little bit of kindness the two women make the perfect pair!
Editor's note: Jacqueline Whitmore is founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach and author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work .