Michelle Obama’s First Year: She Did It HER Way
Michelle Obama’s first year as First Lady of the United States of America has come and gone, and I think it was an amazing first year. I freely admit that I haven’t been paying attention to politics my entire life, at least not as closely as I have in the last year. I also freely admit that I’m more than a little biased when it comes to Michelle Obama. I can honestly say that in the last year I have seen Michelle Obama do things that I never imagined I’d see a First Lady do. I think perhaps the biggest impact she will have is on the young men and women in the Washington D.C. area.
In the past year I have seen and heard countless accounts of her going to schools and talking to teens or stopping in an elementary school to visit a class and read them a book. She's even invited some famous friends to start a mentoring program with a group of 10th and 11th graders. She invited those children and youth to essentially become a part of the Obamas’ extended family. She has gone to soup kitchens without a lot of fanfare and donated her time. Imagine how you’d feel if you were down on your luck and you had to go in to a soup kitchen, and you walked in and there was the First Lady of the United States smiling and joking with you and serving you food. That’s not something I could imagine any other First Lady (in my admittedly short lifetime of only 26 years) doing. She started a White House Garden an instead of simply hiring gardeners to come in and do the work, she did the work and she had children from a local school come in and help her. When the garden was ready to harvest, she then took them into the White House kitchens and showed them what they can do with the food. Again, something I couldn’t imagine any other First Lady doing. The garden has produced over 1,000 pounds of food, and some of that food has been donated to Miriam's Kitchen a local soup kitchen where Michelle volunteered. She even hula hooped and played double dutch, I definitely can’t see any other First Lady doing that. Maybe it’s because she’s one of the youngest First Ladies ever, or maybe it’s just that she cares that much. The White House is once again “the People’s House” mostly because Michelle Obama wanted to open it back up. Even something like the White House Blue Room Christmas tree became a symbol for how she wants to bring the country together and walk the walk instead of simply talking the talk.
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Sure, she hasn’t been doing the DC social scene, but she reached out to the people who mattered most. Not the ones who could afford to have exclusive parties where the President and First Lady show up, but the ones who probably never thought they’d ever get to hang out with the President and First Lady. You were more likely to see Barack and Michelle Obama if you were just a regular person than you were if instead you were a part of the DC social scene. I’m sure that really pissed a lot of people off, but Michelle Obama still continued to do things her way.
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To top it all off, she still remains first and foremost Sasha and Malia’s mother. Her daughters are clearly her life. Even with all she’s doing as First Lady she has not once compromised being a good mother. This is something that everyday women do all the time. They have careers and they still take care of their families. Sure they have their support systems, but no one can take the place of a mother’s care and attention. Heck, she even had time to walk the dog regularly (something I think I recall her saying she wouldn’t do before they got him). I recently read an article where she commented that he daughters are still the same kids they were when they left Chicago. I think that's not only a testament to Sasha and Malia for being the level headed young women they are, but it's also a testament to Michelle Obama for making sure that her daughters continued to be raised as normal children, or at least as normal as possible given the circumstances. She even told the staff that the girls have to make their own beds in the morning and do chores.
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I think what Michelle Obama has shown America is that it’s perfectly okay to just be a Mom. It’s perfectly okay to be who you were before you “arrived”, and if anyone has “arrived” it’s definitely the Obamas. She has shown future First Ladies that there are more important things than merely smiling for the cameras, it’s important to walk the walk. It’s important to not lose sight of who you are outside of your position. I can’t even imagine how many lives she’s personally touched in the DC area by simply being who she is. And I can’t fail to note that she’s happy with who she is, even going so far as to check in with her older friends to make sure she hasn’t changed after being in the bubble that is Washington DC.
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I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't mention her husband in all of this. The last year has certainly been a challenging one for our President. He's had to make some really hard decisions, a lot of which were unpopular not just on DKos but in the "real world" as well. We all know that he keeps a cool head, he's just a cool guy. Personally, I think it helps that he's surrounded by a family he loves when he goes home. He never looks quite as happy as he does when he's with his wife and children. The Obamas are always quick to tell people that their marriage isn't perfect, and of course every relationship has its issues, but they are an excellent example of how a husband and wife could and should work together. She is his rock, and he's not afraid to admit that. I'll even go so far as to say he wouldn't be where he is today if Michelle Obama wasn't who she is. They called her "The Closer" on the campaign trail, and anyone who listened to Michelle Obama speak about her husband and his vision for America couldn't help but at least give the man a second look if not vote for him.
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Through this year Michelle Obama has been criticized for just about everything from touching the Queen of England (who was also touching her at the time) to wearing shorts when it was hot outside. What she wore was criticized as if she was supposed to be dressing to please us. Even a new haircut is somehow news. Through it all she’s kept her head up, she’s stayed true to herself, and she did it all HER way.
Cross posted (although not as prettily)@ DailyKos