CALLING: Mother, wife, and First Lady of the United States
WHY WE’RE SALUTING HER:
As the first African American First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has reintroduced a new image of Black women to the people of America, while simultaneously inspiring women across the globe as an example that it’s not impossible to be a mother, have a career, and be unwaveringly supportive of your husband and his dreams.
Mrs. Obama’s own career began right at home at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago when she was Miss Robinson at the time. After majoring in sociology and minoring in African American studies, Mrs. Obama graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985 from Princeton and went on to earn her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1988.
While at Sidley Austin, Michelle was assigned to mentor a summer associate who just happened to be Barack Obama, and after the Harvard grad impressed the First Lady during a community organization meeting, she agreed to that infamous first date screening of Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” Four years later, they were married in 1992.
In 1993, Michelle became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, which is a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. The fundraising records she set for the organization during those four years still stood 12 years after she left and went on to become Associate Dean Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago. There she developed the University’s Community Service Center, and in 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs, and then as Vice President for Community and External Affairs in 2005.
In May 2007, after Barack Obama, who then had become a Senator, announced his candidacy for President of the United States, Michelle cut back on her professional responsibilities by 80 percent, joining him on the campaign trail more frequently. Concerned about the negative effects campaigning could have on their family, Michelle negotiated an agreement with Barack, saying he had to give up smoking in exchange for her support of his decision to run. As we now know, the rest is history and President Obama has won not one, but two terms in office.
Since 2008, the POTUS has joked on numerous occasions that his wife is more popular than he is, and by most accounts, he’s right. The American people have become obsessed with everything Michelle Obama does, from what designer she’s wearing, to her hair cut, to her Let’s Move! campaign, aimed at lowering childhood obesity. The mother of two has been said to be the key to the President’s election and the humble way in which she supports her husband while at the same time not interfering with his policy decisions has proven to be a key element of their success as a couple and as leaders of our nation. For setting the greatest example of selflessness and integrity, and being the symbol of the type of Black woman we know exists but don’t see nearly enough on the national scale, we salute Michelle Obama.
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