No, I am not talking about the Mrs. Robinson of the 1967 film The Graduate. I am talking about a far better role model. No matter what our political views, we can all admire and celebrate the grandmother-in-chief, Marian Lois Robinson, the Chicago south side mother who made sure her bright and talented children went to the best schools, enabling them to fulfill their potential. She is Michelle Obama's mother, Barack Obama's mother-in-law, and grandmother of Malia and Sasha. She is the First Grandmother of the nation. Like millions of other grandmothers in this country, she flew in for the family crises to ensure that her granddaughters received the love, support and discipline required to succeed. She freed her children, Michelle and Barack, to be available to the nation. She wiped her granddaughters' tears, helped with homework, and put in perspective the ways their parents were demonized as devils and honored as gods. For the past eight years, she has been ever-present though hidden from our view, a steady source of love and discipline for her granddaughters.
In one sense she is an ordinary grandmother. Millions of grandmothers are supporting the American economy by giving their adult children the freedom to provide for their families while knowing that their youngsters are in good hands. Some cover when work hours change or daycare centers close. Others provide occasional respite care. Many step in when illness or drugs claim the parents. Their stint is far longer than a mere eight years. Grandmothers all over this nation are taking care of children.
Without the work of grandmothers, our economy would falter. So let's take a moment to honor not only the First Grandmother, but to honor the work of all the grandparents in this nation who are not lying fallow, but continue to allow children to thrive.
The office of president is filled with constitutional responsibilities. It also provides a bully pulpit, that is, a figurative megaphone for influencing the thinking of Americans. Equally important, and barely recognized, is the role it plays in demonstrating our changing national values.
In Hillary's time, the country was grappling with expanding the role of women. Now we are struggling to make fathers equal in the parenting process. The Obamas have shown the importance of paying attention to children, as well as demonstrating how extended family members reinforce the nuclear family. Social networks help children.
Thank you, Mrs. Robinson, for being a role model for all of us grandparents and for allowing our leaders to focus on doing their job while not sacrificing the well-being and security of their offspring. As a nation and as individuals, we must thank you and by proxy all the grandmothers in this nation who provide incalculable services to their grandchildren. You provided the work of cheerleading and encouragement. You are indeed someone we all want to emulate. You are family values personified.
While we are thanking grandmothers, I'm sure you won't mind if we give a shout out to Madelyn Payne Dunham, the President's grandmother, who raised him. When he was born of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, his grandparents embraced their grandson with unconditional love, total acceptance, and unswerving dedication. Imagine eight years in the White House without one scandal! Now that's the result of good parenting!
Goodbye Mrs. Robinson, you have served this nation well. You provided the older generation with a model of steadfast devotion, a legacy many of us hope to leave.