Michelle Obama's Star Power Could Focus on Families

In 70 days, an ultimate supermom juggling a high-powered career and two young children will take on a new balancing act -- being first lady of the United States.

Michelle Obama's narrative -- an Ivy League student committed to social justice who forged a dynamic career and was enriched by motherhood -- gives Americans insight into the complex role she is expected to play in the White House.

Her husband, President-elect Barack Obama, has spoken many times about her beauty and intelligence. He even quipped early in his presidential bid that his dynamic wife ought to be at the top of the political ticket.

As glamorous as Jackie Kennedy, as formidable as Hillary Clinton and as homespun as Laura Bush, Michelle Obama may be judged as the right woman for the right moment -- the same way her husband perceives his presidency.

So it's no surprise that her struggle to raise children and sustain a professional life will be at the top of her own and the nation's agenda.

"She has his talent, but not his ambition," said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who knew the future first lady as a former colleague at the University of Chicago.

"They seem to have a loving partnership and marriage," she told ABCNews.com. "And part of what makes it work is that Michelle is critical of Barack, but he never criticizes Michelle. He worships her and she keeps him honest."

For many years, Michelle Obama's professional star shone as brightly as her husband's, and many predict her agenda in the White House will have equal luster.

Even the Secret Service seemingly predicts her rejuvenating imprimatur on the White House. Her code name is Renaissance. Barack Obama's is Renegade.

Those who have watched her political ascent up close say she may not try to redefine the role of first lady but instead will lend her name to causes that resonate for all Americans -- including work issues, health care and the tough challenges faced by military families.

While campaigning for her husband in Florida this fall, Michelle Obama said the country must do more for military families.

"One of the things that I've been doing over this past 20 months is traveling around the country having conversations with the family who are left behind when our men and women go off to serve because, oftentimes, we don't hear their voices," she told a crowd in Jacksonville. "We don't understand their challenges."

Her resume is impressive: a 1985 cum laude graduate of Princeton, a 1988 graduate of Harvard Law School, a former associate dean at the University of Chicago and currently a vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals. She sits on six boards, including the prestigious Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Focus on 'Consensus' Rather Than Ideology

"Michelle is the quintessential advocacy person," said Harris-Lacewell, who is now an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University. "She was never an out-front person and mostly prefers to take a role articulating the interest of other people, rather than having her own agenda."

So far, Michelle Obama has said her immediate priority is to be "first mother" and settle her two children, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, into the White House. She has also pledged to focus on the work-family balance that affects so many American women.

But her deep roots in the middle-class black community may challenge the nation's notion of the traditional first lady.

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