Michelle Obama

First African-American First Lady, writer, lawyer

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"Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and writer who was First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and is the first African American First Lady. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and spent her early legal career working at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met her husband. She subsequently worked as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago and the Vice President for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center. Barack and Michelle married in 1992 and have two daughters.

 

Obama campaigned for her husband's presidential bid throughout 2007 and 2008, delivering a keynote address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She returned to speak at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and again during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where she delivered a speech in support of the Democratic presidential nominee, and fellow First Lady, Hillary Clinton.

 

As First Lady, Obama became a role model for women, an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating, and a fashion icon.

 

She was inspired to follow her brother to Princeton University. She recalls that some of her teachers in high school tried to dissuade her from applying, that she had been told she was "setting my sights too high". She believed that her brother's status as an alumnus may have helped her during the admission process, but she was resolved to demonstrate her own worthiness. She acknowledges that she was overwhelmed when first arriving in first year, attributing this to the fact that neither of her parents had graduated from college, and that she had never spent time on a college campus.

 

The mother of a white roommate reportedly unsuccessfully tried to get her daughter moved because of Michelle's race. She recalls her time at Princeton being the first time she was made more aware of her ethnicity and that despite the willingness of her classmates and teachers to want to understand her, she still felt "like a visitor on campus." "I remember being shocked," she says, "by college students who drove BMWs. I didn't even know parents who drove BMWs."

 

While at Princeton, she got involved with the Third World Center (now known as the Carl A. Fields Center), an academic and cultural group that supported minority students, running their day care center, which also included after school tutoring. She challenged the teaching methodology for French because she felt that it should be more conversational. As part of her requirements for graduation, she wrote a thesis titled Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community. She researched her thesis by sending a questionnaire to African American graduates, requesting they specify when and how comfortable they were with their race prior to their enrollment at Princeton and how they felt about it when they were a student and since then. Of the 400 alumni to whom she sent the survey, fewer than 90 responded, and her findings did not support her hope that the black alumni would still identify with the African American community, even though they had attended an elite university with all of the advantages that accrues to its graduates. She majored in sociology and minored in African American studies, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985.

 

Robinson went on to earn her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. By the time she applied for Harvard Law, biographer Bond wrote, her confidence had grown; "This time around, there was no doubt in her mind that she had earned her place". Her faculty mentor at Harvard Law was Charles Ogletree, who has said that she had answered the question that had plagued her throughout Princeton by the time she arrived at Harvard Law, of whether she would remain the product of her parents or keep the identity she had acquired at Princeton, believing that she concluded she could be "both brilliant and black."

 

At Harvard she participated in demonstrations advocating the hiring of professors who were members of minorities and worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, assisting low-income tenants with housing cases. She is the third First Lady with a postgraduate degree, after her two immediate predecessors, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. She would later say her education gave her opportunities beyond what she had ever imagined. In July 2008, she accepted the invitation to become an honorary member of the 100-year-old black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, which had no active undergraduate chapter at Princeton when she attended...

 

Following law school, she was an associate at the Chicago office of the law firm Sidley & Austin, where she first met her future husband. At the firm, she worked on marketing and intellectual property. She continues to hold her law license, but as she no longer needs it for her work, it has been on a voluntary inactive status since 1993.

 

In 1991, she held public sector positions in the Chicago city government as an Assistant to the Mayor, and as Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. She worked there nearly four years and set fundraising records for the organization that still stood 12 years after she left.

 

In 1996, Obama served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University's Community Service Center. In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs and, beginning May 2005, as Vice President for Community and External Affairs.

 

She continued to hold the University of Chicago Hospitals position during the primary campaign, but cut back to part-time in order to spend time with her daughters as well as work for her husband's election; she subsequently took a leave of absence from her job. According to the couple's 2006 income tax return, her salary was $273,618 from the University of Chicago Hospitals, while her husband had a salary of $157,082 from the United States Senate. The Obamas' total income, however, was $991,296, which included $51,200 she earned as a member of the board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, and investments and royalties from his books. Obama stated that she had never been happier in her life prior to working "to build Public Allies".

 

Obama served as a salaried board member of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. (NYSE: THS), a major Wal-Mart supplier with which she cut ties immediately after her husband made comments critical of Wal-Mart at an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, New Jersey, on May 14, 2007. She also served on the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs…

 

After [Barack Obama’s] election to the U.S. Senate, the Obama family continued to live on Chicago's South Side, choosing to remain there rather than moving to Washington, D.C. Throughout her husband's 2008 campaign for US President, she made a "commitment to be away overnight only once a week – to campaign only two days a week and be home by the end of the second day" for their two daughters.

 

She once requested that her then-fiancé meet her prospective boss, Valerie Jarrett, when considering her first career move; Jarrett became one of her husband's closest advisors. The marital relationship has had its ebbs and flows; the combination of an evolving family life and beginning political career led to many arguments about balancing work and family. Barack Obama wrote in his second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, that "Tired and stressed, we had little time for conversation, much less romance." However, despite their family obligations and careers, they continued to attempt to schedule date nights while they lived in Chicago.

 

The Obamas' daughters attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a private school. As a member of the school's board, Michelle fought to maintain diversity in the school when other board members connected with the University of Chicago tried to reserve more slots for children of the university faculty. This resulted in a plan to expand the school…

 

During her early months as First Lady, Obama visited homeless shelters and soup kitchens. She also sent representatives to schools and advocated public service.

 

Obama advocated for her husband's policy priorities by promoting bills that support it. She hosted a White House reception for women's rights advocates in celebration of the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Pay equity law. She supported the economic stimulus bill in visits to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and United States Department of Education. Some observers looked favorably upon her legislative activities, while others said that she should be less involved in politics. According to her representatives, she intended to visit all United States Cabinet-level agencies in order to get acquainted with Washington.

 

In 2009 Michelle Obama was named Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating Person of the year.

 

Some initiatives of First Lady Michelle Obama included advocating on behalf of military families, helping working women balance career and family, encouraging national service, and promoting the arts and arts education. Obama made supporting military families and spouses a personal mission and increasingly bonded with military families. According to her aides, stories of the sacrifice these families make moved her to tears. In April 2012, Obama and her husband were awarded the Jerald Washington Memorial Founders' Award by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV).The award is the highest honor given to homeless veteran advocates. Obama was again honored with the award in May 2015, accepting with Jill Biden.

 

In November 2013, a Politico article by Michelle Cottle accusing Obama of being a "feminist nightmare" for not using her position and education to advocate for women's issues was sharply criticized across the political spectrum. Cottle quoted Linda Hirshman saying of Obama's trendy styles, promotion of gardening and healthy eating, and support of military families that "She essentially became the English lady of the manor, Tory Party, circa 1830s." A prominent critic of Cottle was MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, who rhetorically asked "Are you serious?" Supporters of Obama note that the First Lady had been one of the only people in the administration to address obesity, through promoting good eating habits, which is one of the leading US public health crises.

 

In May 2014, Obama joined the campaign to bring back school girls who had been kidnapped in Nigeria. The First Lady tweeted a picture of herself holding a poster with the #bringbackourgirls campaign hashtag.

 

Over the course of the Obama presidency, particularly during the second term, Michelle Obama was subject to speculation over whether she would run for the presidency herself, similarly to predecessor Hillary Clinton. A potential Michelle Obama candidacy was supported by both Samuel L. Jackson and James Clyburn. On April 6, 2009, CNN did a poll on whether she should run for the presidency in 2020, 83% of responders being opposed to the idea. A May 2015 Rasmussen poll found Obama had 22% of support to Clinton's 56% of winning the Democratic nomination, higher than that of potential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders. Another poll from that month found 71% of Americans believed that Obama should not run for the presidency, only 14% approving. On January 14, 2016, during a town-hall meeting, President Obama was asked if the First Lady could be talked into running. He responded, "There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and Michelle is not running for president. That I can tell you." On March 16, 2016, while speaking in Austin, Texas, Obama denied that she would ever run for the office, citing a desire to "impact as many people as possible in an unbiased way."...

 

In January 2010, Obama undertook her first lead role in an administration-wide initiative, which she named "Let's Move!," to make progress in reversing the 21st century trend of childhood obesity. On February 9, 2010, the First Lady announced Let's Move! and President Barack Obama created the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to review all current programs and create a national plan towards change. Michelle Obama stated that her goal was to make this effort her legacy: "I want to leave something behind that we can say, 'Because of this time that this person spent here, this thing has changed.' And my hope is that that's going to be in the area of childhood obesity." Her 2012 book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America is based on her experiences with the garden and promotes healthy eating. Her call for action on healthy eating has been echoed by the United States Department of Defense, which has been facing an ever-expanding problem of recruit obesity.

 

Several Republicans have critiqued or lampooned Obama's initiative. In October 2014, senator Rand Paul linked to Michelle Obama's Twitter account when announcing on the website that he was going to Dunkin' Donuts. In January 2016, Republican Governor of New Jersey and presidential candidate Chris Christie condemned the First Lady's involvement with healthy eating while on the campaign trail in Iowa, arguing that she was using the government to exercise her views on eating. Obama had previously cited Christie as an example of an adult who struggled with obesity, a demographic she sought to diminish by targeting children since Let's Move! was "working with kids when they're young, so that they don't have these direct challenges when they get older." In February, Senator Ted Cruz indicated that Obama's health policies would end under his administration, promising that french fries would return to cafeterias if his wife was First Lady.

 

In the 2008 US presidential election, Obama boasted, to gay Democrat groups, of her husband's record on LGBT rights: his support of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois gender violence act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, and full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, civil unions; along with hate crimes protection for sexual orientation and gender identity and renewed effort to fight HIV and AIDS. They have both been opponents of constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in the federal, California, and Florida constitutions. She said that the US Supreme Court delivered justice in the Lawrence v. Texas case and drew a connection between the struggles for gay rights and civil rights by stating "We are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall, in the pursuit of a more perfect union."

 

After the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell on September 20, 2011, Obama included openly gay service members in her national military families initiative.On May 9, 2012, Barack and Michelle Obama came out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage. Prior to this, Michelle Obama had never stated her position on same-sex marriage publicly. Senior White House officials said that Michelle Obama and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett had been the two most consistent advocates for same-sex marriage in Barack Obama's life. Michelle went on to say that "This is an important issue for millions of Americans, and for Barack and me, it really comes down to the values of fairness and equality we want to pass down to our girls. These are basic values that kids learn at a very young age and that we encourage them to apply in all areas of their lives. And in a country where we teach our children that everyone is equal under the law, discriminating against same-sex couples just isn't right. It's as simple as that." At the 2012 DNC Michelle said, "Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it ... and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love."

 

With the ascent of her husband as a prominent national politician, Obama became a part of popular culture. In May 2006, Essence listed her among "25 of the World's Most Inspiring Women." In July 2007, Vanity Fair listed her among "10 of the World's Best Dressed People." She was an honorary guest at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball as a "young'un" paying tribute to the 'Legends,' who helped pave the way for African American women. In September 2007, 02138 magazine listed her 58th of 'The Harvard 100'; a list of the prior year's most influential Harvard alumni. Her husband was ranked fourth. In July 2008, she made a repeat appearance on the Vanity Fair international best dressed list. She also appeared on the 2008 People list of best-dressed women and was praised by the magazine for her "classic and confident" look.

 

At the time of her husband's election, some sources anticipated that as a high-profile African-American woman in a stable marriage Obama would be a positive role model who would influence the view the world has of African-Americans. Her fashion choices were part of the 2009 Fashion week, but Obama's influence in the field did not have the impact on the paucity of African-American models who participate, that some thought it might...

 

Obama has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy due to her sense of style, and also to Barbara Bush for her discipline and decorum. Obama's style has been described as "fashion populist." In 2010, she wore clothes, many high end, from more than 50 design companies with less expensive pieces from J.Crew and Target, and the same year a study found that her patronage was worth an average of $14 million to a company. She became a fashion trendsetter, in particular favoring sleeveless dresses, including her first-term official portrait in a dress by Michael Kors, and her ball gowns designed by Jason Wu for both inaugurals. She has also been known for wearing clothes by African designers such as Mimi Plange, Duro Olowu, Maki Oh, and Osei Duro, and styles such as the Adire fabric.

 

Obama appeared on the cover and in a photo spread in the March 2009 issue of Vogue. Every First Lady since Lou Hoover (except Bess Truman) has been in Vogue, but only Hillary Clinton had previously appeared on the cover. Obama later appeared two more times on the cover of Vogue, while First Lady, the last time in December 2016, with photographs by Annie Leibovitz. In August 2011, she became the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and the first person in 48 years. During the 2013 Academy Awards, she became the first First Lady to announce the winner of an Oscar (Best Picture which went to Argo).

 

In May 2017, during an appearance at the Partnership for a Healthier America conference, Obama rebuked the Trump administration for its delay of a federal requirement designed to increase the nutritional standards for school lunches. In June, while attending the WWDC in Silicon Valley, California, Obama called for tech companies to add women for the diversifying of their ranks. In July, Obama honored Eunice Shriver at the 2017 ESPY Awards. In September, Obama delivered an address at the tech conference in Utah charging the Trump administration with having a fearful White House, appeared in a video for the Global Citizens Festival advocating more attention to giving young girls an education, and attended the Inbound 2017 conference in Boston. During an October 3 appearance at the Philadelphia Conference for Women, Obama cited a lack of diversity in politics with contributing to lawmakers being distrusted by other groups. In November, Obama discussed gender disparity in attitudes with Elizabeth Alexander while attending the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, and spoke at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut." (1)

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