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Madame First Lady, Michelle Obama

Philadelphia Tribune, News Report, Larry Miller Posted: Nov 06, 2008

When Jacqueline Kennedy became First Lady she brought a renewed sense of energy to the title and many people see that same quality in Michelle Obama.

Ask almost any Black woman about her and immediately they say she is an inspiration to them. Michelle Obama is poised, photogenic, articulate, obviously in love with and proud of her husband and is comfortable in front of the camera.

Above all, she has a keen intellect that has disabled criticism of her more than once since the advent of the 2008 Presidential Campaign.

Theres also little doubt that the woman who would become Americas first African-American First Lady has captured the attention of the nation.

Even First Lady Laura Bush stepped up and defended her for a comment about being really proud of her country for the first time in her life - a comment that was taken out of context.

The vast majority of people just want change. Theyre hungry for something better and we can do better. I hope I can be a role model not just to African-American kids, but kids broadly, she said in a recent exclusive interview with Tribune reporters. There are going to be young women and children of all races and backgrounds who will look very differently at what their possibilities will be.

She was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson on January 17, 1964 in Chicago, Ill. and it was not into a family with old money.

She grew up in Chicagos Southside, the daughter of working class parents, Frasier Robinson, a city water plant worker and Marian Robinson, a secretary. Obama graduated from Princeton in 1985 and Harvard Law School in 1988.

She is very smart, said her mother, Marian Robinson in an interview with Ebony magazine. I always say, if you want something done, just ask Michelle. Shell get it done and get it done fast and if she doesnt know how to do it, shell go find out and still get it done. She likes people, she can relate to people.

In 1989 she was working for the Chicago law firm of Sidley and Austin when she met Barack Obama. On October 18, 1992, the couple was married in a ceremony performed by Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. at Trinity United Church of Christ. The couple has two daughters, Malia, born in 1998 and Natasha (called Sasha), born in 2001.

In a letter written on May 30, 2008, the couple resigned their membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ. Wright had been drawing considerable flack for statements he made that were perceived as divisive and even inflammatory. Barack had been a member of the Chicago church for twenty years.

She and her husband present an image of a successful African-American couple, which they are.

Sen. Obama said she is a constant source of strength to him and he relies on that.

Michelle believes deeply in the American Dream because shes lived it, said Sen. Obama is a published report. As the mother of our two young daughters she understands firsthand the challenge of balancing work and family. That ability to empathize and understand the struggles that so many hardworking families are going through will be valuable to have as first lady. Theres no one whose support I rely on more than Michelles. Shes a constant source of strength in my own life and the rock of the Obama family.

However poised the couple appears to be though, Michelle has said thats not the reality.

In all of her interviews, her realness seems to show through. Like any wife, she teases her husband and she admits that shes a loud mouth.

I dont want to paint some unrealistic picture of who we are so that in the end when it falls apart and if we havent lived up to this unrealistic expectation, people feel let down in some way, Obama said during an interview with Good Morning Americas Robin Roberts. This is who we are. Ive got a loud mouth. I tease my husband. He is incredibly smart and can deal with a strong woman, which is one of the reasons he can be president. He can deal with me. As weve all said in the Black community, we dont see all of who we are in the media. We see snippets of our community and distortions. So that the world has this perspective that somehow Barack and Michelle are different and were not. You just havent seen us before.

From the beginning of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, race has been an issue and virtually every statement made either by Sen. Obama or his wife were scrutinized. More than once comments were either taken out of context or totally twisted.

On Feb. 18, the Boston Globe reported that Obama said for the first time in her life she was proud of her country. That statement seemed to catch fire and created a storm of responses from political opponents and conservative pundits.

But thats not exactly what she said.

What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback and let me tell you something, for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country, Obama said. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I have seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues. It has made me proud.

First Lady Laura Bush was among the first to defend Obama and clarify her statement.

I think she probably meant Im more proud, you know, is what she really meant, Bush said during an edition of Good Morning America. You have to be very careful in what you say. Everything you say is looked at and in many cases, misconstrued.

Then there was the infamous cover of The New Yorker depicting Michelle Obama as an Angela Davis-type revolutionary and her husband as a Muslim and an American flag burning in the Oval Office fireplace.

That was followed by a moment when, after it was certain that Sen. Obama had won the Democratic nomination, the couple embraced, kissed and she gave him a fist bump.

Fox News Americas Pulse co-host teased an upcoming discussion on the gesture and referred to it as a terrorist jab.

Obama flipped the script on that and in a June broadcast of The View, gave all the co-hosts a fist bump.

Wait, Obama said. I have to be greeted properly, fist bump please. It is now my signature bump, but let me tell you, Im not that hip. I got this from the young staff, its now the new high-five.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Obamas character is her genuineness and sense that middle and lower income Americans are hurting.

Just like her husband, Michelle Obama keeps focused on the important issues and problems facing 21st century America.

The economy, healthcare, racism and the War in Iraq are subjects she has not been shy to speak on.

I just get a sense that families, the average family, is struggling in a way that has been intensified over the course of my adult life, she said in a recent Tribune interview. Its become hard for people to get ahead. It shouldnt be that hard because folks are really working. The war of course, is always there but people are also hurting everyday just trying to get through the days. Weve got a lot to do with a domestic agenda. The race question for us in politics isnt new. There is always the question of what role will race play? In the end people of all ethnicities and background recognize truth and authenticity.

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