MICHELLE OBAMA – Not just a President’s wife

6 minutes

Who is Michelle Obama? 

Wife of…

Pause. Let’s try again, shall we? Michelle Obama is an Attorney, Author, Social activist, and more!  

Michelle Obama rose to fame in 2009 when she became the first ‘First Lady’ of African-American descent. Beyond the confines of her official title, Michelle has been a strong advocate for critical societal issues like poverty, education, nutrition, and healthy living. Her ability to connect with people from various backgrounds and eloquent public speaking skills make her an influential figure beyond the political sphere.

This article aims to share the story of Michelle Obama’s identity that goes beyond being the wife of an American President. We look at the strides she has made in social work and her commitment to positive change. 

Blossoming in Southern Chicago

“Together, in our cramped apartment on the South Side of Chicago, my family helped me see the value in our story, in my story, and in the larger story of our country.”

Michelle was raised in the southern side of Chicago in a diverse and changing neighbourhood. She had friends from various backgrounds. Her father had an immense influence on her life. Despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, her father never ceased to work. By not feeling depressed and working till his last days, he displayed strength of the mind which played a significant role in shaping Michelle.

“My father, Fraser, taught me to work hard, laugh often, and keep my word. My mother, Marian, showed me how to think for myself and to use my voice,”

From a Chicago Neighborhood to the halls of an Ivy League

“I learned a lot in school — how to do my multiplication tables and structure a paragraph, yes, but also how to push myself, be a good friend, and dust myself off after a failure,”

After graduating from high school, Michelle went on to study sociology and African-American studies at the prestigious Princeton University and obtained a juris-doctor degree in Law from Harvard University in 1988. Coming from a working-class family and being a first-generation college student, Michelle felt scared on her first day in Princeton. But it was there that she found her close friends and a mentor who gave her the confidence to be herself.

Meeting Barack

In 1989, Michelle was working as a junior associate in a law firm Sidney Austin LLP, specialising in Intellectual Property Law. It was here that she met her future husband, Barack Obama. She was assigned to be his mentor as both had the same alma mater, Harvard University.

They got married in 1992 and are proud parents to two daughters. 

Chapters from Michelle’s career

Am I good enough? Yes, I am.”

Seeking a more public-service-oriented career, Michelle left her job at the Sidney-Austin firm and became an assistant to the Chicago Mayor. She also became the assistant commissioner for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Since then, Michelle has served in various roles – associate dean of student services, executive director of community and external affairs, and vice president of community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center.

In 2008, when Barack filed his nomination for the American Presidential elections, Michelle was his star campaigner. Her openness on the campaign trail, humanizing her spouse’s mistakes endeared her to the people. 

Michelle as First Lady and Her Initiatives

Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of The United States, with Michelle becoming the First Lady of African-American origin. 

“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others.”

Knowing the power that comes with this position, Michelle launched many initiatives related to health, higher education, military aid, and other critical societal issues. 

Some of the initiatives by Michelle are:

  1. Let’s Move! – a National Action Plan to reduce childhood obesity within a generation and inculcate more healthy eating habits among children and youth.
  2. Joining Forces – an initiative encouraging the citizens of the USA to support US service members, veterans, and their families.
  3. Reach Higher – an initiative encouraging all American students to aspire for higher education beyond school, through training programs, community colleges, and universities. 

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

What makes Michelle an inspiring role model? 

“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

The former First Lady of the United States has authored a memoir, ‘Becoming’. This book documents her journey from Southern Chicago to the White House in Washington. From these personal experiences, one is sure to get inspired by these attributes.

Michelle was aware that when Barack Obama became the President, being his wife could become her major identity. However, she did not let that happen. She believed in the power of having a voice and a presence. She never viewed challenges as disadvantages, instead, she took them as opportunities. 

An industrious and driven person, empathy is her superpower. Though being a First Lady has more ambassadorial functions, she has used the platform to bring in initiatives that positively affect society.

Starting as a student in a prestigious university, then progressing to a lawyer and administrator, and transforming from the star campaigner for her husband’s Presidential elections into the First Lady, Michelle has walked through life with grace, poise, hard work, and humiliation. 

Michelle’s motto is “Own Your Story!”. 

“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

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