What Kind of Lady Will She Be?
Michelle Obama quietly outlines her policy plans
The role of the First Lady has always been hotly debated. Should she play the role of housewife? Social secretary? Policy maker?
Abigail Smith Adams was referred to as Mrs. President, due to her strong opinions – and her complete lack of fear in expressing them.
When Hillary Clinton entered the While House, journalists were screaming over her choice to play a big policy role in her husband’s presidency. (Come on, we all know they secretly loved her for it.)
Laura Bush played a fairly quiet role, focusing her powers as First Lady on her pet project, education.
What about Michelle? We all know she is a strong, strong woman, highly accomplished in her own right, at the top of her game, just like Hillary. Yet, we also know that family is very important to her, and thus far, she has seemed content to let her husband have the limelight. She has allowed the news about her to be largely about her fashion choices, where her children are going to school, and interior decorating choices – despite being a hospital executive, successful community organizer, and Harvard-trained lawyer.
There is a great deal of speculation as to what role she will play in the White House and in her role as First Lady. Based on what she said at a reception following the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter act, she is committed to the rights of working women, saying that the legislation is a “cornerstone of a broader commitment to address the needs of working women who are looking to us to not only ensure that they’re treated fairly, but also to ensure that there are policies in place that help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic security at risk.”
Wednesday, she visited the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to promote her husband’s economic stimulus plan. The Obamas also made a surprise visit to the Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where they read to a group of second-grade students (lucky kids!). Earlier in the week Michelle visited the Department of Education, and the New York Times reports she has a series of trips to government agencies planned.
Everyone has their wishlist for Michelle – women’s workplace advocates want to see her push for affordable childcare, more unemployment rights, and expansion of the FMLA. Others would like to see her take a bigger role in advocating for the spouses of active duty members of the military. And no doubt – even in this day and age – there are those who would like to see her stay at home, and play the role of the quiet mother, serving tea and cookies.
Me? I think she has the chance to make a real mark. I think she has the opportunity to tactfully accomplish what Hillary Clinton was unable to – to prove that a First Lady can be a policy maker AND mother, that she can do what millions of us do every day – juggle a career, a family and a personal life, with great style to boot.