Archive for Saturday, August 30, 2008

Michelle Obama blends tradition, progress

August 30, 2008


In almost any other setting, Michelle Obama would represent the epitome of an accomplished woman from a traditional, hard-working, humble American family.

Neither of her parents went to college - but they made sure she and her brother had the confidence and preparation to go.

She grew up in a small apartment, the daughter of a Chicago city worker and a stay-at-home mother - but she went off to expensive Ivy League schools, Princeton and Harvard law, with the help of work-study and financial aid.

She's worked at a big-deal law firm and a major university and helped groom young people for public service - but her world centers on her two, impossibly cute, school-age daughters.

Where else but in America could a talented, ambitious black woman from a normal background stand at the threshold of being the nation's first lady?

I didn't get to see Michelle Obama on television Monday night. I was watching my daughter's soccer game, the kind of thing Obama's been known to do.

Watching her speech online Tuesday, I liked the Michelle Obama who spoke lovingly about her parents, respectfully about her brother, adoringly about her daughters, proudly about her husband and movingly about her vision of building a better world.

I liked the values she expressed, the goals she outlined. I could relate to the ideal she presents as a mother, wife, sister, daughter and professional woman.

Strip away the politics and cynicism for just a minute and look at the Obama/Robinson family she talked about.

Mom Marian Robinson taught her two children to be decent, responsible and caring.

Dad Frasier Robinson (who died in 1991) was the family provider and "rock" who taught his children to persevere, as he did himself, living with the deterioration of multiple sclerosis.

Older brother Craig, now the men's basketball coach at Oregon State University, was Michelle's "mentor, my protector and my lifelong friend," who sized up her future husband with a game of basketball.

I could relate to the story of a close-knit family, the parents who emphasized education and struggled to give their children more opportunities than they had themselves.

I could relate when Obama spoke of being attracted to her husband because of their shared fundamental beliefs in what's important: "like you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them."

I absolutely could relate when she described her husband driving his new baby daughter home from the hospital, "inching along at a snail's pace ... feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands."

When she referred to "People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling, so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher," I took it as recognition of what every mother of both daughters and sons understands: that the quest to improve conditions for our daughters sometimes has ignored our sons, and neither should have to suffer at the expense of the other.

Clinton and what she called her "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits" must believe that they've been denied the moment they've worked decades to achieve. But beyond the monumental accomplishment of having a woman run for president, isn't Michelle Obama what they've worked for, too?

A woman who doesn't apologize for being smart - or for dressing smartly.

Who doesn't apologize for being strong - or for expressing tenderness in public.

Who doesn't apologize for being a well-paid professional - or for cherishing her role as wife and mother.

You don't have to consider Barack Obama ready to be president or like his politics or his prescription for change to appreciate that Michelle Obama combines tradition with progress in an appealing way.

Haters will continue to question her sincerity and patriotism. But what I heard was an honest belief in the promise of the American Dream. The world as it is won't do. And we do "have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be."

That sounds pretty optimistic to me. And it doesn't require any apologies.

- Linda P. Campbell is a columnist and editorial writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her e-mail address is <a href=""></a>


Pywacket 5 years, 7 months ago

Good point, make-a-difference. Some more context, from CBS:Asked by WJAR-TV if she would like to clarify her comment, Obama replied that she has been struck by the number of people going to rallies and watching debates, as well as record voter turnouts. "What I was clearly talking about was that I'm proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process," she said. "For the first time in my lifetime, I'm seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven't seen and really trying to figure this out - and that's the source of pride that I was talking about," she added. When asked if she had always been proud of her country, she replied "absolutely" and said she and her husband would not be where they are now if not for the opportunities of America.


make_a_difference 5 years, 7 months ago

Your quote leaves out one important word. "for the first time I am REALLY proud of my country". She never said that she wasn't previously proud of her country. What she said was that at that point in time she was really proud. There's a difference.


Pywacket 5 years, 7 months ago

Tell it, Linda! Michelle is the most sincere, most intelligent, and most gracious first lady aspirant I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. Her speech was strong and genuine. If you read up on her background, you will find even more to admire about her.Madmike (how aptly you have named yourself), do you listen to yourself? Do you really think that the "real" anybody can be found in quips (check your spelling, junior) and other out-of-context sound bites? The fallacy and ignorance of that comment boggles the mind--of thinking people, that is. Dislike somebody... disagree with somebody... but first learn enough about the things she has said and done (in the larger context) to know what you're talking about.If you knew a woman like Michelle in real life, you'd be shaking in your boots (and denying it every step of the way with a tough-guy act). She outclasses you, outsmarts you, and could reduce you to sausage stuffing in any kind of debate or disagreement and you know it.And--FYI--Michelle writes much of her own stuff and nobody has to coach her on public comportment. Her life and work experience have prepared her beautifully for her current role. If you bothered to learn anything about her besides the sound-bite regurgitation your wingnut talking heads tell you to believe, you'd know that.Fester on, little man.


madmike 5 years, 7 months ago

Her speech was obviously scripted and she was heavily coached. If you want the real Michelle Obama, keep track of her quipps when Obama's handlers aren't with her. After all, for the first time in her adult life, she is proud of her country!


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