23 Juli 2008

Michelle Obama: The Woman Beside the Man

Michelle Obama is playing a vital role in her husband Barack's campaign for president - but she wasn't always so convinced he should run for president. She had questions and wanted them answered. She wanted to know how the campaign would raise money and what the campaign strategy would be. Once those plans were more concrete, she began to see the possibilities, and set about using her talents to aid her husband's campaign - but not before she negotiated an agreement with him that he would quit smoking in exchange for her support in his presidential bid.

Michelle Obama was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson on January 17, 1964, to Frasier and Marian Robinson. She was born and raised in Chicago's South Side and went on to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She met Barack Obama when they were the only two African Americans at their law firm (Sidley Austin), where she was assigned to mentor him while he was a summer associate. The couple married in 1992.

Michelle's professional resume includes her time at Sidley Austin, where she worked on marketing and intellectual property, as well as a career in the public sector. In the Chicago city government, she served as an Assistant to the Mayor and Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development. In 1993, she became Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization that encourages young people to work on social issues in nonprofit groups and government agencies. In 1996, Michelle served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University's Community Service Center.

In 2002, she began working for the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as Executive Director for Community Affairs, and beginning in May 2005, as Vice President for Community and External Affairs. Until recently, Michelle served on the board of TreeHouse Foods, Inc., which is a major Wal-Mart supplier. Following her husband's critical remarks of Wal-Mart, she immediately cut ties with TreeHouse Foods. She also serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She currently does not have a full time job, focusing instead on her husband's presidential bid.

A formidable opponent in her own right, Michelle's determination, wit and strong will make her a force to be reckoned with. Completely at ease talking with crowds, she tirelessly campaigns for her husband and speaks of him and the election issues with passion and courage - and she's not afraid to tell it like she sees it. Asked in February 2008 whether she would support Hillary Clinton if she got the nomination, Michelle responded, "I'd have to think about that. I'd have to think about policies, her approach, her tone." She also added, "You know, everyone in this party is going to work hard for whoever the nominee is."

And in a statement she made on February 18, 2008, Michelle remarked, "People in this country are ready for a change, and hungry for a different kind of politics and let me tell you something, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." Several political commentators criticized this statement, and the campaign soon issued a statement that "anyone who heard her remarks...would understand that she was commenting on our politics," not on America itself.

Michelle's determination, wit and strong will have also made her a part of pop culture. In May, 2006, Essence magazine named her among "25 of the World's Most Inspiring Women," and in July 2007, Vanity Fair magazine listed her among "10 of the World's Best Dressed People." In September 2007, 02138 magazine listed her 58th of "The Harvard 100," a list of the prior year's most influential Harvard alumni. Not surprisingly, her husband was ranked 4th.

But Michelle's life is not completely consumed by the presidential campaign - she and Barack also try to make sure her children have some stability during this chaotic time. No matter where Michelle is, she tries to fly home each night in order to see her and Barack's two daughters, Malia and Natasha (who are currently being cared for by Michelle's mother) before they go to bed.


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