Michelle Obama resiliently served as First Lady of the United States for eight years, despite being doubted, underappreciated and criticized by public opinion. As the first black woman to hold the position, she destroyed the notion that being the First Lady simply means being the president’s wife.
As a new presidential administration begins, it is imperative to acknowledge Obama as the woman who has evoked positive change and who selflessly dedicated her life to this nation over the past eight years.
Obama—praised for her humor, fashion sense and maternal instincts—offered so much more to American society and politics. As a Princeton graduate and former lawyer, the intelligence and determination that she exhibited before taking office cannot go unnoticed. Further, Obama’s commendable ambition only strengthened when she took office.
The First Lady was not daunted by the job at hand, but fearlessly took current social issues, such as poverty, healthy living and education head on, according to the Biography.com editors’ “Michelle Obama Biography.”
While Obama’s accomplishments were often overshadowed, she remained focused and consistent when it came to her objectives. Some of the First Lady’s major feats include the launch of the Let’s Move! Child Care to address childhood obesity, as well as the National School Lunch Program to provide lunches to more than 21 million low-income children.
Additionally, Obama created the Reach Higher Initiative to inspire children to complete education past high school, hosted a dinner at the White House to encourage young girls to close the gender gap and helped launch Joining Forces to encourage support for veterans and service members.
“Unfortunately, there are gender lenses when you look at women who have political ambition,” Republican pollster Christine Matthews said in The New York Times. “The American public doesn’t want that in a First Lady. They want someone nice and relatable.”
Obama refused to believe this statement, however, as she spearheaded policy and hard-pressing issues right alongside her husband. This fearlessness and ambition, though, is presumably why Obama faced brutal criticism during her time as First Lady.
The torment she received was rarely focused on; instead, it was about her gender and race. According to CNN, the First Lady was called an “ape in heels” as well as “monkey face” by a Colorado doctor, per Huffington Post. Despite this—and many other insults hurled at her—Obama constantly stood tall and encouraged others who were being persecuted to do the same.
This strength and commitment to acting as a role model for younger generations is what made Obama not only an exceptional First Lady, but an exceptional individual.
Obama was referred to as “the closer” by The New York Times during her husband’s campaign because she was a captivating speaker and because she could persuade voters. Obama’s final speech as First Lady on Jan. 6 can attest that her ability to captivate an audience remains.
“All the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you—to all of you, from every background and walk of life,” Obama said.
It is a message like this one that needs to be communicated; this type of verbal inclusion, particularly from such a prominent political figure, can make a significant difference in a young life.