Column by Dylan Doyle, contributing writer
I am writing this before the results of the election, but by press time you will all know the identity of America’s next president. Since I am fresh out of crystal balls with which to tell the future, I would like to talk about someone this country will be losing either way: first lady Michelle Obama.
President Barack Obama was, in many ways, the chief executive we needed but did not deserve. The first African-American to win the Oval Office has been a groundbreaking and resoundingly progressive president – a sorely needed step in the right direction.
However, we rarely talk about Michelle as the first African-American first lady, and what that representation means in the cultural context of the country.
As a graduate of Harvard Law School, Michelle Obama is in the running for most educated first lady in United States history, but it is her warm and genuine personality that captures the heart of the American people. In many ways, she embodies the best qualities of our democracy. With approval ratings running as high as ever following her aggressive campaigning for Hillary Clinton, it seems even this tumultuous election season can’t bring Michelle Obama down.
Even as we say goodbye to Mr. Obama’s political leadership, other spheres of American life say goodbye to the leadership of the first lady, including fashion, advocacy and celebrity. Her work fighting childhood obesity with the Let’s Move! campaign has transformed the national conversation concerning school lunches and nutrition, and her penchant for sleeveless dresses sparked a show-your-arms style trend that swept the nation.
Besides all of these things, Mrs. Obama also stands for the highest ideals of our nation: truth, justice, equality and decency. Her impassioned repudiation of Donald Trump’s vile candidacy will go down as one of the most poignant political speeches of the decade, mostly because it managed not to sound like a political speech. Michelle Obama has a remarkable talent for making the public see her as a woman, a wife, a mother – not a policy wonk or a career bureaucrat. It is this quality that makes her such a powerful force in the national spotlight.
When asked whether or not he was nervous for daughters Sasha and Malia Obama to start dating, President Obama said “the truth is, I’m pretty relaxed about it for two reasons. One is Michelle – she’s such a great example of how she carries herself, her self-esteem, not depending on boys to validate how you look or not letting yourself be judged by anything other than your character and intelligence.”
It is so important for young girls to see that their worth is not defined by the gaze and perception of men, and this standard set by Mrs. Obama is a welcome change for the historically stuffy role of first lady. Whatever endeavors she takes on in the future, you can be sure she will do so with her characteristic grace and wisdom. It is simply who she is, and her impact on the role of the president’s spouse will be felt for generations to come.
Put the vitriol of the past election cycle behind you, and live by the words of the best First Lady this country has ever seen: when they go low, you go high. That is the very essence of what it means to be an American.