The role of First Lady is undefined, unpaid, and -- too frequently -- unappreciated. It has, in some instances, been exploited or neglected by First Ladies who obviously had neither the courage, the conviction, nor the imagination to mold the position into one that fits their passions and makes a significant impact on the lives of Americans. Some, like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosalynn Carter, and Hillary Clinton, chose to be what could be called Power First Ladies. Mrs. Roosevelt took on the role of eyes, ears, and legs for her crippled husband, while Mrs. Carter regularly sat in on President Carter's staff meetings, and Mrs. Clinton fought hard for health care during President Clinton's first term in office.
There is a certain irony that Jackie Kennedy, the first First Lady born in the Twentieth Century, followed Mamie Eisenhower, the last First Lady born in the Nineteenth Century. It is significant because their contrasts in styles differed dramatically. Jackie Kennedy exemplified the Twentieth Century by being better educated, more worldly, and more fashionable than any of the First Ladies before her.
Mamie Doud married Dwight David Eisenhower when she was nineteen and he was twenty-five. She lived her entire adult life as a military wife, living in twenty-eight different homes and many foreign countries.
While Mamie Eisenhower's cause was her husband -- and herself -- Jackie Kennedy took on the refurbishment of the White House furnishings. She is solely responsible for bringing many of the mansion's former pieces back to their origins through her connections to famous old families and, she freely admitted, by badgering people to donate furniture to her project. Mrs. Kennedy was also adamant that her children would be protected from the press and have normal childhoods to the degree possible.
The White House years were not kind to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Less than three months after the premature birth of her second son, and his death two days later from infant respiratory distress syndrome, her husband was assassinated.
A New Age of First Ladies
The wife of the forty-third president left the White House with a popularity rating twice that of her husband. Quite frankly, given the disastrous presidency of George Bush, that would not have been a difficult, um, mission to accomplish.
While President Bush received much well-deserved criticism during his administration, Mrs. Bush escaped that fate. Her successor, unfortunately, has not been afforded the same respect.
One hundred and forty-three years after the official end of slavery in the United States, an African American descendent of that blight on the nation's history stepped across the threshold of the White House as First Lady. The significance of that fact could not have escaped the wife of the new President, but she did not dwell on it. Michelle Obama had a more urgent issue to address.
Her priority, as she stated many times between the election of Barack Obama on November 4 and Inauguration Day, was the transition of the couple's two daughters to their new home, school, city, and positions as First Daughters. To aid in this endeavor, she brought the First Granny, Mrs. Marian Robinson, with the family to Washington.
|Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009|
|Renegade, Rosebud, Renaissance, and Radiance|
(Secret Service Code Names)
Once assured that seven-year-old Sasha, ten-year-old Malia, and Granny were happy and comfortable in their new situation, the Princeton-educated First Lady was ready to carve out an active role for herself in her husband's administration.
In so doing, she has become not an extension of Barack Obama, but a willing and able partner in his determination to be a president who works in the best interest of all Americans. And, whether planned or not, she became an unofficial and charming ambassador for his endeavors to restore the country's tarnished reputation around the world.
Acutely aware of the nation's childhood obesity crisis, Michelle Obama championed, as one of her major projects, healthy nutrition and exercise programs to encourage better eating habits and getting-fit/staying fit activities for young Americans. She did not intend to be a First Lady who gave a well-attended speech for her projects, then disappear and let others do the heavy lifting. Less than two months after the inauguration, she started planting a garden on the South Lawn of the White House and invited children in the city to help; then she invited them back at harvest time so they could experience the fruits of their labors, so to speak. She also got the wholehearted support of the White House kitchen staff, who were excited about the idea of fresh vegetables -- especially the herbs!
In 2011, Mrs. Obama's first book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, was published.
The First Lady did not accept an advance on her book, and all proceeds are being given to charity.
Far-Right Windbags and Total Idiots Must Speak
That sound you heard after the First Lady was so successful with her good-nutrition campaign was Big Government once again interfering in your life by trying to dictate your diet! As sad as it may be that this post has to be sullied with, for just a sampling, the likes of Darrell Issa, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin, calling out their hypocrisy is necessary in the interest of journalistic integrity.
After the Obamas took over the White House, Darrell Issa (R-Racistville) decided he was going to protect Mrs. Obama and future First Ladies from -- hell, something or other -- by limiting and/or curtailing their involvement in policy making. Strange that Issa had been there throughout the entire two-term Bush administration, and never thought of protecting Mrs. Laura Bush.
As the Poster Boy for an imminent heart attack, fat cigar-smoking leader of Dittohead Denizens Rush Limbaugh called Michelle Obama a hypocrite ... saying that, while the First Lady advocates healthy eating, she "doesn't look like [she] follows her own...dietary advice" and would never be put on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. This bloviating heap of pretension called the First Lady to task for --gasp! -- eating a few barbequed spareribs while on vacation.
|Sarah Palin, who is the same age as the First Lady. |
Sometimes, it does not pay to advertise!
Sarah Palin, who continues to make herself a getting-real-old joke by displaying her jealousy and bitterness against the Obamas, decided to rake over the First Lady by telling an actual lie -- I realize it's news to everyone that Sarah Palin lies -- when she said on her failed reality show that Michelle Obama doesn't want us to eat dessert and went looking for the S'mores ingredients while, ahem, camping with the family. Yes, dear readers, Sarah Palin, whose intellectual acuity equals that of belly button lint, whose voice would put a rusty chainsaw to shame, and whose deteriorating physical appearance would scare the stink out of a skunk.
The Renaissance Woman Moves Forward
As Americans got to know the new First Lady, they became enchanted with her warmth, sincerity, intelligence, grace, strength, and -- let's face it! -- glamour! Mrs. Obama's cheerful and welcoming Hi, I'm Michelle touched all but the rabidly jealous haters on the right, a fact which never diminished her popularity.
But pictures are worth far more than words can convey. Some photos of the first four years, in no particular order:
|Detail of gown|
|Olympics, 2012, in London|
|Ladies of the First Family meet Nelson Mandela, June 2011|
|The President and First Lady of the United States|
Here are several links for interesting information on First Ladies of the U.S.
Top 10 Most Influential First Ladies
The First Ladies at the Smithsonian -- Michelle Obama: Great Expectations