As the general election draws near, many pundits debate the legacy of Barack Obama. His landmark achievements include Obamacare, abolishing DOMA, and the obvious - becoming the first black president of the United States. Seldom discussed, however, is the illustrious legacy First Lady Michelle Obama has established.
Michelle Obama is arguably the most accomplished first lady ever. More accomplished than Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, and yes, Hillary Clinton.
Two Ivy League degrees aside (Princeton & Harvard Law), Mrs. Obama has served as the Associate Dean of Students at the University of Chicago, and Vice President of Community & External Affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center, before becoming one of the most beloved first ladies in US history.
#Flotus implemented the insanely popular Let’s Move! campaign, as well as the Joining Forces military program, Reach Higher educational co-op, and the Let Girls Learn global initiative - all while making #Flotus, a household hashtag.
Mrs. Obama has touched millions of lives in ways many elected officials only dream, while simultaneously shattering antiquated notions of the typical housewife. She remains present and engaged as a mother, and continues to be an inspiration to parents worldwide. She is an equal-partner in every sense, who enthusiastically supports her spouse’s goals as her own; and she does so without diminishing her greatness or compromising her ambition.
To understand the magnitude of the first lady’s influence, one simply needs to recall the timely, heartfelt, emphatic speech delivered during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. As the convention hall watched in awe, Mrs. Obama gave an address that has been considered, “one of the three greatest convention speeches” in political history.
Mrs. Obama spoke candidly about the issues troubling America today, touching on gun violence, equal rights, and race relations. At one point, she reflected on the sensitive subject of slavery, stating:
“That is the story of this country...the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters - two beautiful, intelligent, black young women - playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
She spoke with conviction and authority, in a tone that quelled, calmed, and ultimately healed the tumultuous convention hall. More than 26 million viewers tuned in nationally, and according to several reports, those who watched were noticeably moved.
Atmosphere Inside the Hall
The Sanders campaign previously raised concerns over a biased national committee in December 2015, when it accused the DNC of tipping the scales in favor of Sec. Hillary Clinton. The leaked emails appear to support Sanders’ original claims.
Needless to say, Sanders supporters weren’t satisfied with just the resignation of Schultz, especially after the Clinton campaign released a statement hours later announcing Schultz would “continue” as a campaign surrogate. If the timing of the statement wasn’t odd, the Clinton campaign’s choice of words certainly were.
How does a recently removed chair of a national party, whose position, by definition, was expected to be neutral and unbiased, continue as a campaign surrogate?
Hence, Sanders loyalists’ major gripe. Many Sanders delegates lobbied for harsher consequences and supported the idea of a contested convention. Delegates on both sides were observed heckling, shouting, and pushing. The overall atmosphere in the hall was one of animosity and division.
Then the First Lady Took Stage
The atmosphere in the hall had grown so tense that both campaigns were forced to distribute texts to staff members and delegates to discourage public confrontations. Mrs. Obama was well aware of the political climate inside the hall prior to her speech, and seemed to understand better than anyone the possible implications of her remarks.
The first lady began as most speakers do, giving warm salutations. Then she quickly appealed to the audience’s sense of nostalgia, reminding the country where it was seven years prior, and highlighting the progress the Obama administration has made. She reminded Americans of the president’s responsibility to guide, influence, and empower the next generation of leaders, a demeanor she suggested Donald Trump lacks.
Drawing on her executive experience as an organizational leader, lawyer, and public speaker, she persuasively argued how many social issues transcend politics. Issues such as education, health care, women’s rights, and racial inequality. She spoke about the concerns she has for her daughters, and children in general, and did so in a way that resonated with every parent in the arena. She also spoke of the challenges she and her family have faced as the first black family, and did so with exceptional grace, style, and unforgettable class. As she delivered her historic address, America watched knowing it was witnessing history.
The most memorable moment of the address came midway through, when Mrs. Obama described the challenges of public life and its effect on her daughters. She spoke about the unwarranted, bizarre charges from conservatives, and highlighted a few of the more egregious attacks the family has endured. She likened the negativity to bullying, and encouraged onlookers to stand tall in the face of aggression, as she and her family have done through the years. She shared a philosophy her family adopted early on, which was simple, yet powerful; “when they go low, we go high.” The hall erupted, and a queen was crowned.
A beautiful, intelligent, confident queen, from Chicago’s South Side.